Tuesday night was Baby Jones’ first concert. Katie and I splurged on good seats to see R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and The National at Ever-Changing-Corporate-Sponsor-Blah-Blah-Something-Blah-Pavilion at Walnut Creek in Raleigh. I don’t know if her/his budding ears captured any of the night’s sounds, but I like to think the experience was something like a prenatal alt-rock primer.

The National opened with a decent short set. Their sound, at least what I’ve heard on the one album I own (Boxer), relies too much on Matt Berninger’s barritone vocals, changing instrumentation, and overall melancholy to really take over in an outdoor arena. One of the guys played the fiddle like a mandolin, but I couldn’t hear it at all. They sounded almost like a heat-withered, too-sad-to-be-angry Interpol. To be fair, anyone playing music at 6:45 p.m. in 98-degree heat has a right to be withered.

The National, June 10, 2008.

The National – persevering in the heat

Modest Mouse was on at dusk, and I knew what to expect before the band took the stage; there would be much less screaming (unfortunately for us) from Isaac Brock than when I saw them at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta in 2001. Back then I would never have guessed that Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths) would be beside Brock onstage, but there he was, looking closer to a spry 24 than a seasoned 44. Their set included only a couple classics from their two Up Records releases. I can’t complain though, because Isaac did gnaw on his guitar strings for awhile during “Here it Comes”. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but the music snob in me was pleasantly surprised when they finished without playing “Float On”. Of course, some of the whipper-snappers in attendance acted like they deserved a refund because they didn’t hear it.

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse – quieter than last time

After the sun set on south Raleigh, R.E.M. began with “Harborcoat”. Michael Stipe’s theatrics changed to match each new song. Mike Mills, wearing the same shirt (or so it seemed) that he was wearing when Katie first met he and Stipe in Athens, was stationed house left. Peter Buck was audible, but not really visible because he roamed a dark part of the stage most of the night. Everyone in the band, old members and new, gathered ’round the piano for a sing-along rendition of “Let Me In”.

Katie particularly enjoyed “Find The River”, “Electrolite” and “Orange Crush”, while the highlights for me were “Bad Day”, “Welcome to the Occupation”, and “Pretty Persuasion”. The only disappointments were songs I don’t really like in the first place — “I’m Gonna DJ” and the title track from Accelerate. They finished with an outstanding encore, and brought Marr, Don Dixon, and Mitch Easter on stage for a couple of songs. They closeded with “Fall on Me”, “Sitting Still”, and “Man on the Moon”. All in all, the band played like they were genuinely happy to be back in the South. The result was a memorable show for Katie and me, and probably just some vibrations for baby Jones.

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R.E.M. – “Bad Day”

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R.E.M. – “Let Me In”

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R.E.M. – “Fall on Me”