The National Showcase Cuts From ‘Sleep Well Beast’ and Dive Into Their Archives at Rousing Hollywood Bowl Show
There are few bands who hit as many musical home runs as The National, a quintet whose stock only seems to rise with every new release. Their latest, “Sleep Well Beast,” is no different, winning heaps of critical acclaim for its dark undertones and songwriting that appeals directly to the heart. Catching them live presents a whole other experience, one that fans enjoyed when they packed L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 11 to see the indie stalwarts play a set that encompassed The National’s entire career.
After Daughter and Local Natives warmed the crowd up with two well-received sets, the two-decade veterans took to the stage for a set that neared two hours, smattering most of their unforgettable hits throughout, but mainly focusing on “Sleep Well Beast.” Usually when a band turns its sights to a newer album, shows have a bit of lag to them, but there was none to be found as the crew kicked things off with “Nobody Else Will Be There” before moving into “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”
One of The National’s defining characteristics is the velvety baritone from singer Matt Berninger, who found himself in rare form this evening, despite having some noticeable difficulty toward the tail-end of the encore. Throughout the night he regaled the attentive audience with quippy anecdotes, including dedicating “I’ll Still Destroy You” to former George W. Bush Chief of Staff Karl Rove, joking that he would happily give Rove a co-writing credit on the track. He also opened “Afraid of Everyone” by clarifying that he’s no longer afraid of everyone, because everything he feared has come to pass. He even dedicated “Secret Meeting” to Jared Kushner. Clearly, a brutal tour schedule has done nothing to dampen the acclaimed singer and songwriter’s spirits.
Although the group focused more on “Sleep Well Beast,” they did throw in quite a few cuts from their ever-growing catalogue, including “I Need My Girl,” “Fake Empire,” and the unforgettable “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” Every track got a roaring approval from the crowd, proving that The National’s prestigious legacy remains alive and well.
If there was one drawback from the show, it would have to be the lack of a substantive encore, but that’s not exactly a huge gripe considering the band played for close to two hours. They opted not to close out with the customary sing-along “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” probably because of the time constraints the Hollywood Bowl imposes on its performers. They instead went out with “Pink Rabbits,” “Mr. November” and “Terrible Love,” still an intoxicatingly divine trio of songs that closed the night out on the highest of highs.
When it comes to exhilarating live fare, The National haven’t missed a step. Daughter and Local Natives turned out to be perfect additions to the bill, complimenting the quintet very nicely. At the end of the day, The National remain a must-see, as well as a must-listen.