The National - "Sorrow"

Last month, we learned that the National were planning a six-hour show, one that would consist entirely of one song — “Sorrow,” from High Violet — played over and over ad infinitum. Only the members of the band know why they would bother with an undertaking quite this nuts, but they did it. It’s done. The event went down at MoMA’s P.S. 1 in Queens yesterday. That’s the setlist above, because somebody was being cute. And when you click on the fan-made videos, below, that’s pretty much what you’ll hear: The song, unchanged, played again and again (though drummer Bryan Devendorf sits out one rendition, which is fair, because that guy hits hard and needs a rest sometimes). Watch a couple of videos from the marathon below.

Two hours in:

Four hours in:


(via Pitchfork, where you’ll find more videos)

The National’s new album Trouble Will Find Me is out 5/21 on 4AD. Also, this whole stunt isn’t that different from a whole lot of people’s regular jobs.

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Comments (8)
  1. Sorrow is from “High Violet,” released in 2010, not the new album.

  2. I think I’ll go watch paint dry instead.

  3. I skip through these videos and I can’t help but notice that no one appears to be having much fun. They’re probably there just to say that they were…there. I’d be the asshole that would start yelling for a different song about an hour or two in. This is like a restaurant being fully stocked for thanksgiving but only serving mashed potatoes. Give me turkey or give me death

    I’d be more impressed if Berninger belt out Mr. November for 6 hours

  4. I was there from the beginning and inside the dome for 3 1/2 hours. My friend had bought the tickets. I only knew a few hours ahead of what I was in for.
    At first it was exciting to see The National.
    Then boredom set in and as most people we pulled out our phones to do various things like take photos and text what we were doing to our friends. No one was sure what ‘the rules’ were and what, as the audience we should be doing.
    The friend I was with cracked a few jokes that they wouldn’t let us leave or that we’d grow bored or that we’d never want to hear the song ago. Suprirsingly, that wasn’t true.
    After an hour or so, I closed my eyes and listened to the music, and much like when you go running, where the first part is kind of work and boring, you hit a sort of altered state and everything became surreal. The song wasn’t just a song anymore.
    The National was very professional and they actually did a few versions, one with horns, another with more vocals, another with the drummer out for a bit, one with Jesus and Mary Chain-esque guitars.
    At first no one cheered. But once they started to make small changes we cheered. When the guy brought them food we cheered. When they deviated in little ways from the song, we liked those versions better. We liked that we were seeing something live and not a perfectly polished prerecorded with auto-tune experience. Eventually we started to cheer for The National between the end and beginning of each iteration. We wanted them to succeed. We all became increasingly invested in the experience; well, as much as our bodies and minds would allow.
    We found ourselves singing along the most when a member needed to take a break. We were in solidarity with the band.
    And despite the sad song and repetition, the overall vibe was hopeful, cheerful even.
    We didn’t realize once we walked out that there was a very long line to return and we lacked confidence that we would get back in in time for the ending.
    I watched a few of the videos, to see if I could go back into that moment in time, but it’s not the same.
    The National did an amazing job. I would have never gone if I had known the premise ahead (because it seemed like a gimmick and kind of crazy). But it was beautiful and spiritual and yes I’ve listened to the song a few times more and I hope to hear it more in the future. I hope The National would enjoy playing the song again, because they created something beautiful and unique with that experience. It gave the song even more value and weight.
    They were brave and professional and wonderful. For each iteration.
    If they did it again, I would tell people to go and experience it. I know I would go again.
    For me, it was far more than just repetition.

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