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Move on Up

June 17th, 2010

The National – Radio City Music Hall – June 16, 2010

The National - Radio City Music Hall - June 16, 2010
Just three songs into the National’s sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall last night, lead singer Matt Berninger jumped off the stage and into the crowd. After a strong opening set by the Antlers, the National started with “Mistaken for Strangers,” followed by “Anyone’s Ghost,” from recent release High Violet. As he sang, Berninger displayed his distinctive stage behavior, pacing, wringing his hands and clapping to himself along with drummer Bryan Devendorf’s frantic beats—a controlled mass of pent-up energy. It was halfway through “Bloodbuzz Ohio” when Berninger, no longer able to hold it in, jumped down to be alongside his hyper fans as he sang angst-ridden lyrics touching upon love, debt and failure.

The National easily filled the cavernous venue with their dynamic orchestral arrangements of songs like “Squalor Victoria,” “England,” “Runaway” and “Little Faith,” but were quick to acknowledge their more humble beginnings, dedicating “Secret Meeting” from their 2005 album, Alligator, to The Bowery Presents’ own Johnny Beach, who they note got them their very first show. The National seemed to want to remind hometown fans that while they may be playing bigger and bigger venues these days, we need not fret because this is weird for them, too.

For his part, Berninger continued to breach the stage/audience boundaries, and during the climatic “Mr. November,” made his way all the way up to the mezzanine, his microphone cord trailing behind him, as audience members helped pass it over their heads to follow the singer. Since the National’s emotive, lush music is no longer a wonderful shared secret among a select group of savvy listeners, it is likely that the venues they play in will continue to grow in size. But luckily, at last night’s show, Berninger seemed to prove that as the band’s popularity rises, he, too, will rise up to the highest balcony and sing beside more and more members of the crowd, the place where he is perhaps most comfortable. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Mina K