The National Celebrates BrooklynJuly 28th, 2010
The National – Prospect Park Bandshell – July 27, 2010
The experience of a live concert is reducible to a limited number of forms. And of those possibilities, bands usually fulfill your expectations of how they will perform and sound. For example, jam bands display virtuosic creativity while pop stars preen and shine for their adoring audience. This isn’t to say that performances don’t vary from night to night, but as the adage goes: You get what you pay for. The exception to this rule is when a band reproduces an album’s sound, but the effect of seeing them live still brings new depth to your understanding. Such is the case with the National. From lead singer Matt Berninger’s bustling baritone to Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s guitar hooks, the National swallow you whole.
On Tuesday night at the Prospect Park Bandshell, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio natives brought their talents to support free shows as a part of Celebrate Brooklyn! Fellow heralded indie-rock stars Beach House opened with a serene set filled with selections from their 2010 release, Teen Dream. Though lead lady Victoria Legrand joked, “Thank you for standing there and watching us play music,” it’s unclear what other reactions their midtempo, introspective tunes could elicit.
By contrast, the National played through a catalog shifting from the anthemic, like with “Squalor Victoria” and “Mistaken for Strangers,” to the spectral “Conversation 16” and “Anyone’s Ghost.” The group’s effectiveness is apparent in the way they balance their literal no-frills presentation with focus and determination. Silhouetted behind a large black drape, the men of the National looked and sounded like they take their music seriously. Thankfully this approach deeply rewards the band and the audience. —Jared Levy