Modest Mouse / The National Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto ON June 8

Modest Mouse / The National Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto ON June 8
A rainy Sunday welcomed R.E.M.'s North American tour to T-dot, but the aging proto indie rockers were upstaged by a one-two supporting punch that didn't do Michael, Peter and Mike any favours other than display their good taste in music. The National entered looking entirely comfortable on the larger-than-usual stage. Steeped in the same classic American indie-isms as their headliners, which puts sophistication, raw emotion and instrumentation ahead of everything, the Brooklynites held a more than half-full theatre intrigued throughout their 40-minute set. Most material was lifted from last year's Boxer, and a trusty two-man horn section helped fill in the textures of "Start A War" and the uplifting crescendo of "Fake Empire." "Baby We'll Be Fine," though, encapsulated the energy and emotion this band are now about, reworking it into a showcase for singer Matt Berninger to emote full force, screaming as if he was being eaten alive. When Modest Mouse walked on stage, the same elated response was given. I'm still not used to them as a six-piece, but I really shouldn't be since Isaac Brock, Jeremiah Green and Eric Judy rarely resemble the band they were back in the late '90s. With Johnny Marr still on board stroking the guitar, the million-sellers muscled their way through a set built mostly from their last two albums. A set designed to make new fans, both hits, "Dashboard" and "Float On," sparked the expected outburst from the crowd, but there were some surprises in store. A trip down memory lane began with the decade-plus-old "Truckers Atlas," which was dusted off and edited down for a fleshed out performance, before leading into the exhilarating tandem of "Wild Pack of Family Dogs" and the exuberant "Paper Thin Walls," which is still possibly their best live song to date. The standing ovations for both bands suggested it's only a matter of time before they find themselves headlining their own amphitheatre tours, showing maybe R.E.M.'s goal all along was to prep these bands for their impending dominance.