Thursday, June 6, 2013

Live Review - The National @ Barclays Center

The National have been a band for nearly 14 years, they have played nearly every size venue possible from small clubs to big stages at big festivals, yet, they have never headlined a massive gig before. The largest they got was in 2010 at Radio City Music Hall. Now, three years later and after the release of their latest acclaimed album, Trouble Will Find Me, the Brooklyn band headlined their biggest gig to date right in their own backyard. At Brooklyn's Barclays Center, the band filled the new arena with sound and vision and proof that if you work hard and believe in yourself, big things will happen. Early in the bands set, singer Matt Berninger joked about their headlining slot, "We have been a band for 14 years. We've played probably 35 different venues in New York over the years. Tonight we just wanted to go back to our roots, where it all began, right here at the Barclays Center."

As they walked on stage just after 9pm, the band got a hometown heroes welcome, while the show was surprisingly not sold-out, it was still packed with fans. Opening with the mid-tempo "Don't Swallow the Cap" and then going into the bombastic "Bloodbuzz Ohio," straight away those in attendance were about to have a fun and surprising night. Some may have been skeptical that a band like The National who experiment with various strings, brass, and pianos, as well as crescendoing guitars and drums,  would lose their sound in such a large space would be proven wrong as they sounded perfect. Playing a majority of songs off their last two releases, halfway through the set the band went back to their older material, songs like "About Today," "Abel," "Apartment Story," "Fake Empire," even "Sorrow," which Berninger joked that it was "probably the most rehearsed song on tour," would get the biggest applause. The band who featured their signature brass and string players as well as longtime collaborator Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman on stage were joined by Annie Clark aka St. Vincent who just got off a plane and went right to the arena to perform with the band to do "The Is The Last Time." While the surprise and gesture of Clark being there was nice, her voice was unprepared and seemed lost at times as Berninger would flex his vocal muscles.

After being on stage for over 90 minutes, it was the encore that would get the biggest applause from the crowd. Opening with "Humiliation," a song that is rather hypnotic and not as compelling on disc was brought to a whole new life live, it was then into their closing staples of "Mr. November," which saw Berniner jump into the crowd and push and test the limits of his mic chord through the general admission section and then into "Terrible Love." As everyone thought it was over, guitarist Aaron Dessner would tell the crowd, "We don't have any time left, but we are still going to do this," as they tested the acoustic limits of the Barclays they walked back on stage with guitars, drums, and tambourines all unplugged to do "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." It was a perfect moment to an evening that seemed perfect to a band that had pushed so hard to where they are now.

The National 6/5/13 Barclays Center Setlist
"Don't Swallow the Cap"
"Bloodbuzz Ohio"
"Mistaken for Strangers"
"Sea of Love"
"Afraid of Everyone"
"Conversation 16"
"Squalor Victoria"
"I Need My Girl"
"This Is the Last Time" (with Annie Clark)
"Apartment Story"
"Pink Rabbits"
"About Today"
"Fake Empire"
"I Should Live in Salt"
"Mr. November"
"Terrible Love"
"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks"