Posted in music | pictures on May 17, 2010

words by Rachel Kowal, photos by Getty Images for American Express

All week, The National has sponsored nightly events at their "High Violet Annex" to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated fifth album, High Violet. On Friday they even performed a set of National songs at the space. Saturday night's sold-out "ZYNC from American Express Presents The National to Benefit Red Hot" show at BAM capped off the week's festivities which started earlier the same evening at the Annex where 70-or-so lucky attendees were, unexpectedly, given tickets to the BAM show and then bussed to the Brooklyn venue to see the show...

the bus @ BAM

The BAM show began with a brief behind-the-scenes video about their recording process, and then the band launched into "Mistaken for Strangers" and then played a string of new songs. Though the National is technically a quintet, as many as nine additional people joined them on stage to play a variety of string and brass instruments. Sufjan Stevens joined the band to sing backing vocals (like he did on Letterman) on a handful of songs. Sometimes National-members Padma Newsome and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) made a rare appearance together on stage (usually its one or the other as a member of the band). The biggest surprise band member of the night was the Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry who sang backup and played a variety of instruments throughout the set. Richard, Sufjan and Thomas all also contributed to High Violet which is out now.

With its ornate molding, dramatic curtains, and theater-like seating, BAM may be a bit of an odd choice to host what is essentially a rock show, but the beautiful space complimented the dapperly dressed band and gave them enough room to spread out on stage. Possibly sensing that something was not quite right, lead singer Matt Berninger hopped off the stage and began pulling people up into a standing position early into the show.


Throughout the show, Berninger was a sight to behold. One moment, he'd take a sip of white wine and sing softly into the mic stand and the next, he's wildly pacing back and forth on stage with his head down, pounding his hands together like a mad man. The contrast between Berninger's smooth baritone voice and his manic behavior makes for a dynamic performance. During the four-song encore, Berninger leapt off stage again and rushed the audience in the orchestra section. With his impossibly long mic chord trailing behind him, Berninger climbed desperately over anything in his path - be it chairs or people. From the middle of a row, he stood recklessly on a chair, screaming the chorus to "Mr. November" into the faces of ecstatic fans.

When all was said and done, The National played the entirety of High Violet in addition to a number of older songs. Film directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus were on hand to direct the live webcast of the concert that was happening on YouTube (the band addressed the Internet audience a few times), and which you can still watch there (some videos below too).

After the show, a fancy ZYNC-sponsored afterparty was held around the corner at One Hanson Place, aka the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, downstairs in the old bank's bottom floor (now used as an event space). The National, their friends and associates, partied until late with an invite-only crowd that also included members of Grizzly Bear and Beirut, and some celebrities who had attended the show (like Julia Stiles). And there was a lot to party about - recently completed Europe tour and a week of festivities in NYC aside - High Violet is selling really well too. More pictures from the show and the afterparty, with the setlist and some videos below...








a Dessner, Jennifer Blumin, D. A. Pennebaker & M. Berringer

Zachary Francis Condon

Ed Droste Desnner sandwich

Julia Stiles & Dessner

The National return to NYC stages to play at Radio City on 6/16 and Prospect Park on 7/27

The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio @ BAM

The National - Terrible Love @ BAM

BAM Set list
Mistaken for Strangers
Anyone's Ghost
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Afraid of Everyone
Secret Meeting
Slow Show
Squalor Victorious
Little Faith
All the Wine
Vanderlye Cry Baby Geeks
Conversation 16
Apartment Story
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love



Comments (47)

One of the best days all around in a long while for me...thanks again to the national

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:23 PM

On the one hand, I appreciate a band that actually starts a show on time. On the other, fuck The National for making me miss Mistaken for Strangers.

Posted by Billy | May 17, 2010 2:26 PM

Even though I've only listened to High Violet a handful of times, I'm still feeling a National overload....maybe I read this blog too often?

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:39 PM

Julia Stiles! I didn't know she liked the National...props to her:)

How long did the National play for?

Congrats to the National for making it this far....

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:40 PM

Fred Savage was there too.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:44 PM

Zach Condon = Mose Schrute

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:45 PM

Zack Cordon's right cheek got smooched by __________________ :)

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:55 PM

Was there. Was awesome.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 2:59 PM

Finch from American Pie was also there.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:00 PM

no start a war? bummer, that song is so good.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:04 PM

That bus ride was as fun as the show. (There was beer provided.)

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:07 PM

And Kate Walsh was also there.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:25 PM

its crazy how many good songs they leave off the set list. they just have too many good songs to play in one night. geese of beverly road, about today, etc.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:27 PM

after party was shockingly fun for a corporate-sponsored shindig. good old-fashioned dance party which included matt, sufjan and rich parry. good times.

Posted by mike | May 17, 2010 3:36 PM

michael cera was there, enjoying himself in a responsible manner

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:41 PM

I watched live online, and I gotta say, For a YouTube stream the picture and sound was excellent. And the shoot overall was just really good. Great camera work. I enjoyed the entire presentation a lot.

Posted by Kurt C. | May 17, 2010 3:50 PM

Howard Stern was there

Posted by rich | May 17, 2010 3:56 PM

Stephen Hawking was there

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 3:59 PM

Eric Roberts was there

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:17 PM

ronnie james dio was there

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:19 PM

Was Stern really there?

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:21 PM

Daft Punk was there

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:35 PM

good writing. Brooklynvegan is getting more scholarly.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:38 PM

what @438 said. Impressive. Benjamin, take notes.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:42 PM

zero stage presence, or i guess thats what hipsters look like on stage? and they're all ugly as sin. really wanted to see them live until i saw the webcast.

high violet is impressive though, i must say.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 4:58 PM

Dr. Venkman was there.

Posted by Venkman | May 17, 2010 5:03 PM

hipsters HATE stage presence! havent you received the memo?

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 5:24 PM Real Estate for stage presence at it's finest!

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 5:38 PM

Julia Stiles was there, taking herself seriously.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 5:41 PM

The Cat in the Hat was there..Bastard had fifth row center and wouldn't stfu on his cell phone the entire night.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 6:02 PM

Mike Myers? What a dick.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 6:10 PM

Writing is definitely better - in the comment section as well as the article. Though BAM shafted BV by not letting him have a photog.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 6:44 PM

eh, the indie blogosphere could probably use less photo credentials. don't need a billion shots of the same show that only a handful of people might care about.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 7:12 PM

Lars Von Trier streamed it and was not impressed.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 7:13 PM

please decelebritize julia stiles

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 7:48 PM

Wow, dude was definitely hammered by the last song. He somehow managed to forget when to come in on his own song. Slow down on the wine spritzers.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 8:54 PM

Bill O'Reilly was at the show

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 9:36 PM

I was on the bus.

Posted by Anonymous | May 17, 2010 10:11 PM

ME TOO. We allfucking killed it!

Posted by Anonymous | May 18, 2010 12:55 AM

julia stiles likes good music. i stood next to her 9 years ago at a built to spill show @ irving plaza.

Posted by rick | May 18, 2010 1:15 AM

they should open for giras new swans tour, that would be an amazing show.

Posted by Anonymous | May 18, 2010 12:09 PM

Ugh, he does the audience-invasion thing, like the crowd thinks he's Elvis and yearns for him to be in their faces? God, I hate this band even more now.

Posted by Ugh | May 18, 2010 1:56 PM

The national fucking can suck my balls. Probably the worst band around right now. The band is filled w/ douchelord mavericks. Seriously I have no idea how people are into this shit.

Posted by MH | May 18, 2010 2:01 PM

douchey indeed.
the drummer is like the epitome of douche.
the rest of them aren't far behind.
hate the fact that i like the new record alot :(

Posted by Anonymous | May 18, 2010 2:36 PM

Aside from their lyrics being terrible, even their SONG TITLES are terrible. I wish I could identify exactly what it is about "Bloodbuzz Ohio" that enrages me so, but I can't. In the meantime, I can hate obviously idiotic titles like "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." Never have I seen a band act like such continental sophisticates and yet have so little to back it up other than white wine and a baritone. They make Interpol look like a combination of William Faulkner and the Velvet Underground.

Posted by Ugh | May 18, 2010 5:08 PM

omg soooo cute!

Posted by Anonymous | May 22, 2010 12:15 PM

I'm assuming the comments on here are supposed to be taken as a joke. The National are by far the best band around right now. They completely trump all the other over the top "indie" bands right now. These comments are absurd.

Posted by MM | August 14, 2010 1:26 PM

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