I can count on one hand the bands who have contributed substantially to the soundtrack of my life over the past 10 years, and The National would be a band sitting in the Top 5. I admit, it took me a while to fully grasp why people we going so nuts over Matt Berninger’s signature rumbling baritone, but I fell victim to their influence when I was least expecting it. Sitting alone in a theater watching a Tom Hardy film called “Warrior,” the movie included several of the band’s songs but it wasn’t until the last fight scene, with the swelling violins of “About Today” and Matt’s voice tenderly croaking out his lines coupled with what was going on in the movie… myself and everyone around me basically lost it.
From that moment on, I was hooked. I understood how The National built such a solid following, which was more than evident when I stepped foot on the grounds at Forest Hills Stadium this past Friday. This time, the band was here to play in support of their latest release, Sleep Well Beast, another album from the band that is sure to make several “Top 10 Albums of 2017” lists this year, including mine.
Stretching out behind the band, were large, horizontal LED screens, with projections of album art, and abstract swirls and color patterns to help amplify the tone of the songs or set the mood, for example all red for “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” The new songs sounded absolutely gorgeous. Matt’s voice was in pristine condition as he sang the opening lyrics to “Nobody Else Will Be There.” Aaron and Bryce Dessner performing their duties on opposite ends of the stage looked beyond happy to be playing the new material before the eager crowd.
Around me, crowd goers passionately belted out the lyrics to songs, both new and old. Matt wandering haphazardly around the stage, sipping languidly from a plastic cup, effortlessly filled the empty spaces between songs with scathingly hilarious political banter. The butt of most of his jokes was none other than Jared Kushner, who he joked taught Bryce to play guitar solos during their time together at school. It wasn’t all political banter, however. Taking a minute, Aaron explained that $1 from each ticket sold benefits the Melting Pot Foundation USA, that works to counteract food injustice, sells healthy food to neighborhood residents, and trains its clients for jobs in the food industry.
Upping the energy level a bit, “Turtleneck” made its way into the set list, and the entire stadium erupted. I was happy to hear “Guilty Party” make its way into the set, but a bit let down I didn’t hear my absolute favorite song “Sleep Well Beast” was left out. They did redeem themselves with a fantastic rendition of “Slow Show,” in which I saw the couple standing in front of me embrace each other, dance, and seal the end of the song with a tender kiss.
Continuing with their habit of covers on this tour, the band settled on The Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” followed by a fantastic set of songs to close the show’s encore: “Mr. November,” “Terrible Love,” and “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” Matt teased his way into the crowd several times throughout the duration of the performance before making his way out at the end, sauntering over the greened hedges near the VIP section. It was a truly unforgettable performance from start to finish, from one of the most consistent bands out there today.
Article: Lesley Keller