Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
It's not any one particular song that made for a standout show for The National. It's more like the accumulation of the parts of song and band that led to the end result.
Yes, there may have been a few standouts, like "Day I Die," but the material from the quintet never flagged from start ("Don't Swallow the Cap") to finish ("About Today") of the nearly two-hour set.
They spread it out mainly from "Trouble Will Find Me," "Boxer" and High Violet, but covered four of their other releases as well. Curiously, The National only played two songs apiece from the two most recent CDs.
And while not geared to be commercially viable, just about every song could lead to your head bopping up and down to the music.
Lead singer Matt Berringer maintains a very rich baritone, which in and of itself gave him a lot of presence. He's not a particularly charismatic performer. Yet, decked out in black like most of the band Berringer has an aura of hipness.
He obviously knew how to play to the crowd also with lots of theatrical hand gestures, often placing his hand on his head. He also sure liked venturing into the sold-out crowd as he jumped off the stage four different times including one extended foray onto the floor.
The Dressner (twins Bryce and Aaron on guitars) and Devendorf brothers (Scott on bass and Bryan on drums, who often pushed the pace with a galloping beat) comprised a well-oiled music machine. No one needed to especially flex their musical muscle in what was a group effort, including Berringer. A little flourish here or there from either of the Dressners provided color without dominating. The proper band was capably supported by two horns players as well. It was more like every band member filled the spaces in between and made the most of it.
For the National, the sum of the parts made for a whole night of wonderfully conceived music.
Australian singer Indigo Sparke opened with a satisfying stint. Sparke, who said she was "super nervous," certainly didn't appear that way. Sparke provided a dreamy approach to her music, which meandered along and was capably backed mainly by a guitarist and drummer. Sparke doubtlessly landed herself a spot on the tour because Aaron Dressner produced her album, out in a few weeks. He even played with her on one song. The larger setting may not have been the sweet spot to hear Sparke's music, but she made the most of it.