A few days ago The National’s European tour arrived to Stockholm and I was, together with lmvs from this blog, in attendance at the sold-out show. The show took place at Cirkus, a beautiful, more than 100 years old, venue that was originally intended for circus shows, which spawned a couple of jokes among the band members about frontman Matt Berninger acting like a clown.
The National brought along Brooklyn-based folk singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten and her band, consisting of Doug Keith on bass and Ben Lord on drums. For those of you unfamiliar with Van Etten; she’s a young, extremely talented artist who released her first record in 2009 and her second, Epic, last year. They played a great set, with The National’s Aaron Dessner joining them on guitar for a couple of songs, including at least one from her upcoming album that Aaron Dessner is producing, which seems to be a slightly different musical direction, but one even more exciting. Sharon Van Etten herself was an excellent vocalist and a funny, albeit a bit shy, bandleader and switched from her customary electric guitar to a harmonium for one song, adding a new dimension to the performance.
After a half hour wait The National began their set with the ballad “Runaway”, the same song that they opened with at the Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg this summer, and something of a deceptive move considering the energetic direction the rest of the show took. The National were enthusiastic throughout the show, and although their dark and sometimes stark music might not seem like the type of music that would translate to a live setting they’re one of the very best live bands out there. The setlist consisted of ten out of eleven songs from last year’s High Violet (only “Lemonworld” was missing) and a few songs from Boxer, Alligator and the Cherry Tree EP, and my only complaint about the setlist was the lack of “All The Wine” and “Available” but that’s hardly a serious complaint.
The National frontman Matt Berninger is one of the most captivating frontmen I’ve seen, despite not seemingly doing all that much, except when walking through the audience during “Mr. November” but his stage presence and manners are something special. The sound was excellent with the guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner having some of the best guitar sounds and tones I’ve heard, and the rhythm section, consisting of the Devendorf brothers Scott and Bryan, were tight (and Bryan being one of the best drummers I’ve seen).
Highlights included the aforementioned “Mr. November”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Wasp Nest” and the closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” which the band performed unplugged with the audience singing along. Overall The National performed one of the best gigs I’ve seen in a long time, and it shows why they’ve become one of the biggest indie rock bands, with perhaps only Arcade Fire being significantly bigger.
Sharon Van Etten:
|with Aaron Dessner|
|with Aaron Dessner|
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