Displayed on three rows of LED screens above the stage were the words: “Please Standby.” Switching to a video, the screens showed the group making their way to the stage with red Solo cups in hand. After one last chug, The National was ready to perform.
On Oct. 5, 2017, The National—best-known for its melancholic sound that pairs well with a cup of tea on a rainy day—performed at the Wang Theater in downtown Boston. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, this theater is no joke. The theater, accentuated by Corinthian columns, brings to mind the elegance of a Broadway stage. However, The National’s use of LED screens and laser lights transformed the theatre into a venue fit for one of America’s biggest indie-rock bands.
For the next two hours, an invigorated crowd sang along with passionate frontman Matt Berninger, who roamed the stage and the aisles, to the crowd’s delight. Alongside Berninger, the Dessner brothers (Aaron and Bryce) and the Devendorf brothers (Scott and Bryan) added an onstage presence that couldn’t be missed. Performances of “Lemonworld,” “Day I Die,” “Mr. November,” and “I Need My Girl” were certainly the highlights of the 22 song setlist. During “I Need My Girl,” a poignant song of heartbreak, the crowd recited the song line for line and swayed to the soft bassline. Those who were listening for some of their older songs were thrilled to hear “Son,” off their debut album The National.
The most impressive element of their performance, however, was the band’s display of multi-instrumental ability. Throughout the night, the band rotated their instruments amongst each other and at one point Dessner stunned the crowd by playing two guitars at once.
The National is currently on tour to promote their newest album, Sleep Well Beast, which was released on Sept. 7, 2017. The 12 track album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. Following their performance in Boston, The National will be playing in New York City, followed by a night of music in Pittsburgh. Both of these shows will be accompanied by the opening band Daughter. The band already has a jam packed 2018, with plans to play in Oceania and South America. Dessner will also be curating prominent music festivals next year such as Boston Calling and Euax Claires. And, if you’re abroad, look to HAVEN in Copenhagen, curated by both Dessner brothers.
There is one memory that will not be forgotten from last night: a quick miss of lyrics in the song “Turtleneck.” Berninger, adamant that his favorite verse be sung properly, stopped and restarted the band. The crowd wildly cheered at his decision. It was like the game Chutes and Ladders, Berninger said, because one lyric slipped down the chute and then the next verse dropped in too early. “Do you guys like Chutes and Ladders?” Beringer asked, “I fucking hate that game.” The show finished with Berninger chucking cups of beer into the audience and a reflective crowd slowly filing out.