Modern alt rock group the National were in Philadelphia last night to play a live version of their latest album, Sleep Well Beast, which drops Friday. The Tuesday-night performance took place at Union Transfer and was recorded by NPR. Needless to say, the show was a transcendent musical experience that could only be delivered by the likes of lead singer Matt Berninger and the brother duos of Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Here are some photos and standout moments from the show.
1. The National chose Philadelphia!
How lucky Philly was to host such an event, and the sold-out crowd local couldn’t have been more appreciative during the unspooling of each of the 12 new tracks and a mini-mix of old songs at the end. The nearly 90-minute set was accompanied by thunderous applause and fists raised high.
2. Sleep Well Beast is a sprawling work that challenges the mind and ears
The 12 songs from Sleep Well Beast were new to most of the crowd, but they resonated. The National are not ones to hit the repeat button, and this work is no different. Waves of sound filled Union Transfer with the enigma of Berninger’s lyrics and a sonic landscape curated by the Dessners and Devendorfs. There were moments for all-out rock jamming and moments for percussive reflection. This was the National at its purest.
3. Getting a glimpse of the National’s creative process
Opening song “Nobody Else Will be There” stunned, but at the end of his performance Berninger admitted he messed up the first verse. This wonderful, off-the-cuff live moment showed the flaws and awareness of a band working in peak creative form.
4. The theatrics
The National know how to stage a show with intricate lighting design and unrehearsed yet thoughtful choreography. The blue, white and red lights set up startling moods and drama. This culminated in the white lights of the night’s closer, the anthemic classic “Terrible Love.” During this performance, Berninger was pushed to the brink of the audience (but not into it, as he often goes) bathing the band in their raucous glory and spotlighting the fans that have embraced them time and time again. So much of their music bends into the darkness of human thought, but last night the crowd left feeling optimistic about the bright possibilities of music and art. Check out some more pics below.