Brooklyn-based The National played the inaugural concert at New York City's Terminal 5 last Thursday to a sold-out crowd of approximately 3,000 attendees.
Frontman Matt Berninger put on a mesmerizing, if slightly conflicted performance. He spent most of the night with his eyes shut, clutching the mic close to his body as he sang to his adoring audience. But while Berninger typically seemed awkward and somewhat unaware of what to do with himself in between songs, he also displayed a more lighthearted side by joking with the audience before the concert began. Later on, right before the band's two-song encore, he poured a bottle of champagne — which he then passed along to the front row — onstage to celebrate the venue's opening.
The rest of Berninger's bandmates were also a delight. The music was spot-on, the Dessner brothers provided lush guitar and bass backdrops, and Padma Newsome — who accompanied the band on violin and keyboards — nearly stole the show at certain points. Highlights of the show included "Fake Empire" (the opener on this year’s Boxer), which resulted in a majestic climax featuring a trumpet and trombone player. By the end of the song's performance, the entire band seemed exhilarated as members grinned at each other onstage. Other songs, like "Secret Meeting," contained an extra energy that the album versions lack. And Berninger performed the second and final song of the encore, "Mr. November," with wild abandon, screaming and kicking at speakers as he darted around the stage.
The National may not seem like the sort of band destined for superstardom; their slow rise in popularity is an indication that the band's music tends to grow on its listeners. But the energy and beautiful musical arrangements at their live shows demonstrate that this is a band that deserves the acclaim it receives. And they're most certainly a band worth checking out in person.
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