The National are getting bigger every day and every night – due in no small part to their incredible live shows, where there’s hardly a misstep.Playing their first of two dates at the Music Hall In Williamsburg (a second date was added after the first sold-out), after opening up the day before another new Bowery Presents venue in New York City, Terminal 5 (QRO venue review) in west Midtown, these Cincinnati-born, Brooklyn-bred boys were on-form on Friday, October 12th. The Music Hall (QRO venue review) was filled with loyal fans eager to hear The National’s powerfully tragic indie-rock.
With a set roughly divided between their latest, this year’s Boxer (QRO review), and older pieces (mostly from the one before, 2005’s Alligator), one would be hard-pressed to find fault with any pieces on their set-list. They started off with a Boxer–Alligator one-two, one-two of “Brainy”, “Secret Meeting”, “Mistaken For Strangers”, and “Baby, We’ll Be Fine”. The subdued power of “Brainy” set the stage, and the higher beauty of “Meeting” carried the crowd right into Boxer’s powerful first single, with the dark “Mistaken” serving as the night’s first huge crowd favorite. Boxer mostly dominated the middle of the set, with the alt-country “Slow Show”, the heartbreaking goodbye of “Squalor Victoria” (another audience-pleaser), the wry and world-weary “Ada”, the flowing, melodic “Racing Like A Pro”, and the effortlessly effective second single, “Apartment Story”. And in-between were the driving “Murder Me Rachael” (from 2003’s Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers) and Alligator’s sweetly snappy “City Middle”.
The National playing “City Middle ” live @ Music Hall In Williamsburg, New York, NY:
The overwhelming emotion of “Pro” and evocative wisdom of “Apartment” were the highest point on this high night, meaning Alligator follower “Daughters of the Soho Riots” felt a little too laid-back. But then The National over-delivered Boxer with “Fake Empire”, the controlled piano piece somehow garnering the biggest round of applause that evening. Or maybe it was just that the cheers for the quiet “Empire” were easier to hear than the yells during the most raucous number in the set, Alligator’s “Abel”. The crashing final breakdown of “About Today” (from 2004’s Cherry Tree EP) drove the crowd into the band’s awe-inspiring rendition of Boxer’s “Start A War”, to send the group into the encore break. The National returned with “Cold Girl Fever”, an audience request from their 2001 self-titled debut, then another Boxer out-performance in the moving “Green Gloves”, and finished the incredible evening off with Alligator’s powerfully pressing plea, “Mr. November”.
With a hit record and three sold-out Big Apple dates in a row, The National have all the makings of becoming the next Editors or Interpol. They draw not just a loyal, ever-increasing fanbase, but also new listeners, by the droves. And there’s a reason for all that – one amply on display whenever they play live.