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Live Review
The National

The National

Event Info

February 04 2014
The Vector Arena, Auckland

Reviewed By
Paul Larsen
5th February 2014


When Brooklyn based indie heroes, The National first visited our shores in 2008 they were already eight years into their career. The compact confines of the Kings Arms played host to that gig but by the time they'd returned in 2011 it took three nights at The Powerstation to accommodate their growing fan base.

It's not just the fans that have kept growing either. Critically, the band had a phenomenal 2013 with their sixth record, Trouble Will Find Me attracting substantial praise from critics and fans alike, hitting numerous top ten lists as well as garnishing a Grammy nomination. It's a testament to the recent strength of that record that the cavernous Vector Arena would be employed for the group's 2014 return - albeit in its slightly abbreviated configuration.

Regardless, it was a full crowd of new and tenured fans that greeted the band as they took the stage. Front man Matt Berninger joined by the brothers Dessner (Guitars and Keys) but just half of the brothers Devendorf due to Bryan's (drums) brother Scott (bass) being left at home to tend to a new arrival in the family.

Those extra fans that had been drawn to the evening on the strength of Trouble Will Find Me were not going to be leave empty handed either. All told, ten songs from the record got an airing with 'Don't Swallow the Cap' and 'I Should Live in Salt' opening the show before a stormy version of 'Demons' popped up just several songs later. Berninger channelling Nick Cave at his brooding best throughout the song, stalking the stage and visiting each band member in turn between verses – a rapidly lightening wine glass sloshing over his left hand. A charged 'Sea of Love' had the eager crowd at attention shortly afterwards. The extra energy injected into the song betraying its Joy Division and new wave roots but ensuring a palpable energy lift throughout the arena.

Regrettably, there are were moments where the venue threatened to outstrip the music however and the intimate and torn vocals of songs like 'Hard to Find' were close to being lost completely in the echoic P.A. Despite this barrier, Berninger remained determined to connect with the crowd and fired up the front rows with raucous versions of 'Afraid of Everyone' and 'Squalor Victoria' while what must best be described as a particularly filter-heavy Instagram feed accompanied each song on a big screen behind the band.

After a brief encore break and a shout out to Lorde, who the band had attended the Grammys with ("She was the best thing about that circus..") the group launched into the popular 'Mr November' and 'Terrible Love', Berninger wandering deep into the crowd and then into the stands, extended mic cord in tow. It's a full two hours before a hearty sing-along to the acoustic 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' signals the end of a magnificent show and the band are barely off stage before the house lights are back up.


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