Review: The National at Radio City Music Hall

18Jun10

Since the release of their latest album High Violet in May, The National has been doing some extensive NYC touring. They did a small show at The Bell House (3/12), performed a benefit show at BAM (5/15) with an online simulcast, and then they hit none other than Radio City Music Hall last night. All shows were sold out. By my count, they will have played five shows in NYC by the end of July (the only performance with tickets still available is the Terminal 5 show on 7/29).  I wondered how they could sell so many tickets for shows in the same city in the span of two months. This is the stuff of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and U2. But as I looked around Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night, I realized this is a really popular band with an obviously loyal following. I mean I’ve attended 2 shows so far, and I have tickets for the Prospect Park show. How many people at Radio City were also attending another show?

I wondered if I was overdoing it. I really like High Violet, but how many times can I see them promote the same album? Well, I can say that after Wednesday night, I am still excited to go see them again in the park in July—if only to see what Matt Berninger will climb on. “Mr. November” sung from the treetops perhaps?

The show was great, Berninger’s voice was spot on, and some nice lighting effects created some lovely musician silhouettes. The crowd was on its feet for the entire show, which makes for some good energy, but it is rare that you have a nice plush velvet seat reserved for you during a show…I know, I know, I’m being a lazy concertgoer. Special guests for the evening included Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and Sufjan Stevens. I thought they would come back later, but they really just appeared for two songs.

There was a good mix of the new High Violet songs and the popular songs from Boxer. The horn section was great, as were the Brothers Dessner and the Brothers Devendorf.  Berninger did not disappoint with his crowd-weaving antics (much to the audio technician’s dismay, I’m sure). This time he climbed up the side of the theater to reach the mezzanine. He traveled across the entire front row of the mezzanine, microphone in hand, belting out “Mr. November.” When he finished he seemed a little stranded on the side of the theater. As he made his way back to the stage he reminded me of the Oscar winners who must find the stage from their seats way in the back. The whole audience looks on in silence as we wait to see what’s next.

Matt Berninger's "Mr. November" musical trail

Making his way down from the mezanine

One of my favorites.   Your voice is swallowing my soul, soul, soul…

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