Matt Berninger remarked how the last time The National played in Los Angeles, they were at the Hollywood Bowl. He joked about how he destroyed the dressing room, and they weren’t invited back. However, after $10,000 in repair fees, The National had returned to LA with a pair of sold-out shows at the Greek Theatre and Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The band brought their festival-quality show to one of the best venues in LA, offering fans a much more intimate performance than we would have gotten had Berninger been more sober or mentally stable for that Bowl performance. Thank god for that.
England’s Daughter started the show with a beautiful and warm tone that slowly but surely won over a less-than-focused LA crowd. The first few songs, though beautiful and rich, received mostly the typical one-handed lap-clap because most of those in the audience were either holding beers or texting, but as Daughter’s set went on, the crowd fell in love one listener at a time.
Rich textural tones grew throughout the open air theatre as Daughter’s timid and angelic-voiced frontwoman, Elena Tonra, settled on top of each song. Their single “Winter” seemed to really stir the crowd; with washy vocals and a driving rhythm, it was hard to sit still. Their dark yet poppy epics flowed nicely from song to song, showing that Daughter deserved to be playing at a venue of this caliber.
When the lights went down for The National, the crowd roared, but rather than the band immediately taking the stage, a trailer for their upcoming documentary, Mistaken For Strangers, lit up the giant screen behind the stage.
The rock doc appears to offer a very intimate perspective on The National and will show personal matters as well as those surrounding the band’s exponential rise to stardom since the release of their breakthrough album, Boxer. After the trailer, a live video of the band in their dressing room appeared, showing the band pacing and readying themselves to take the stage.
From the first note of “I Should Live In Salt,” the opening track from their latest album, Trouble Will Find Me, The National had the crowd locked in. Their presence on stage is unbeatable and capable of commanding the eyes and hearts of thousands at a time. Energy buzzed on the stage and flowed out to the engaged crowd.
Their lighting was stunning, lining the stage from the floor to the ceiling and back down to the other side of the stage. The brilliant colors flashed reds, greens, and yellows in time with their songs, giving a perfect visualization to the passionate anthems the band provided.
The National’s onstage banter back and forth was hilarious. Berninger seems to be unaware of much of what goes on in the band, admitting that he would have vetoed any harmonica on certain songs and not recalling discussions with their producer while recording their album. It may have been the wine talking, but his presence was that of both an aristocrat and a clown.
After one song he broke his mic stand and threw it into the crowd, saying into the mic, “I need another one… I know… I’m sorry…” Adding to the punk-rock vibe that Berninger brought to the evening, he spent half the band’s encore running up the aisles through the audience. He seems to know what he can get away with as a rock star while simultaneously understanding the bother his actions can be, and his “I-do-what-I-want” attitude adds so much to a band that already out-performs most.
The National’s rich sound brought warmth to the crisp hillside venue. Their flawless guitar work and driving and unique rhythm section literally had fans uncontrollably bouncing, almost to the point where it was annoying. They finished their set acoustically with the entire band walking to the front of the stage, clapping, singing, and playing acoustic guitars. Berninger sang away from the microphone. It gave a very human ending to a night ran by icons and solidified this as a show to remember.
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