The National, a Cincinnati-based alternative rock band, performed at the beautiful outdoor amphitheater in Downton Raleigh, North Carolina this past Tuesday night. The band took the stage shortly after 9 p.m. Matt Berninger, lead vocals, was hard to miss wearing his black, thick-framed glasses while sporting a red solo cup cheerfully waving to fans. Prior to taking the stage, a live-camera feed appeared on the LED screen for the crowd to see the band getting ready back stage with visual effects on top. It was a cool way to hype up the crowd before they took the stage.
Fans quickly rose to their feet as they opened with "Nobody Else Will Be There" and "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.” In fact, the first four songs of the night were off their new album, Sleep Well Beast. The National then decided to take a track from their massive catalogue spanning over a decade and played “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “Afraid of Everyone”. Matt Berninger was flowing with sporadic moments of energy while also stepping to the side to let fans focus on other band members like Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf & Scott Devendorf.
Music was flowing across the concrete floor of the amphitheater the entire night. I managed to find a spot at the top of lawn section on the back right-hand side of the venue. I had no trouble hearing the band at all even being so far back. Some songs were quieter than others. A fair amount of The National’s songs tend to start quiet with this slow tempo and a driving rhythm that will eventually speed up and get louder. There were also moments when great energy arose. Songs like "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" is a prime example of this as they played it second song in. I was still shooting photos at the pit at this point and I could feel Berninger and the band were warmed by this point.
Although most songs were memorable, a song that stood out to me because it displayed a more personal side of The National was the song "Mr. November" off their 2005 album Alligator. Berninger literally dragged his cabled microphone through the crowd running on top of the seats singing the song with fans as he moved throughout the crowd. It was a pretty cool moment and it left several people speechless with how personal of a moment it was.
The night was heavily dominated with songs off their seventh and most recent album, Sleep Well Beast including “The Day I Die, Guilty Party, Dark Side of the Gym, Carin at the Liquor Store” and many more.
Opening support was a personal favorite of mine, Big Thief. It was a short set but it included "Shark Smile" and did a great job of warming the crowd up for The National. This show was nearly sold out with over 3,000 in attendance.
The National begins a two-month run of shows in Europe starting in June of 2018.
Set List: 5/1/18
Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Don’t Swallow the Cap
Afraid of Everyone
Dark Side of the Gym
I Need My Girl
Day I Die
Carin at the Liquor Store
Hard to Find
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks