The band opened the 5 night run on Monday with a performance that left the crowd begging for more. They entered to the lovely, delicate chords of “Start A War” and proceeded to play a 90-minute set that drew heavily from the new material. In fact they played all but 2 songs from Boxer, as well as a selection of tunes from 2005’s Alligator, “Murder Me Rachel” from Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and “About Today” from the Cherry Tree EP. Highlights included “Squalor Victoria”, which featured a new guitar freakout and Berninger repeatedly screaming the title phrase during the extended closing, a haunting “Daughters Of The Soho Riots”, the driving “Apartment Story”, and Alligator fan favorites “Abel” and “Mr. November”.
Several of the Boxer cuts, such as “Slow Show” and “Squalor Victoria”, gained momentum from the album to the stage, but the setlist leaned a little too heavily on slower material (for example - they played “Baby We’ll Be Fine” from Alligator, but not “Lit Up”). The back to back pairing of “Racing Like A Pro” and “Ada” works just fine on record, but in a live setting toward the end of the set traded momentum for tediousness. When the band let loose the results were continually inspired - “All the Wine” was all brash, tongue-in-cheek male-posturing, “Daughters of the Soho Riots” rode a trance-like groove from drummer Bryan Devendorf that brought the set its highpoint of sublime beauty, and Berninger acted like an entertaining rock star (read: liability) on stage during the end of the set, engaging in a continuous brawl with his microphone cord, stand, and the stage-front monitors, and leaving a trail of broken equipment in his wake.
Opening act The Broken West played a competent set comprised almost entirely of their January debut I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. They were good, especially on highlights “On The Bubble”, “So It Goes”, and “Down In The Valley”, and their cheery West Coast sound and attitude provided a nice counter to The National’s more stoic presence.
Thanks to Stuart Mockba for the great pic's!