Friday 27 October 2017

On Stage: The National @ AFAS Live

The last time The National were touring, they shared updates on what equipment broke during their shows. Microphones had to be replaced the most, which shouldn't come as a surprise when you saw singer Matt Berninger handling them. His intense way of singing included dropping mics, kicking the stand and pounding it against his head. These passionate performances together with their lush songs are exactly the reason why I love them so much.

The National at AFAS Live Amsterdam, October 25 2017

The new LP Sleep Well Beast doesn't really show a drastic change of direction, but it does introduce new elements to their music. Especially the arrangements of the songs are more adventurous and gives their sound more variation and depth. Tonight the band kicks off with four tracks of that album in a row and will end up playing almost the whole album, only skipping 'Dark Side Of The Gym'.

It shows the band is confident about their new album and songs and for a good reason, since it is one of their best. It also brings the same variation into their show where dark and slow songs like the gorgeous 'I Need My Girl' and 'This Is The Last Time' are followed by the more playful 'Turtleneck'. The horns sounds so wonderful in the new songs and you have to give a lot of kudos to the Dessner brothers who compose the songs. It is clear they have some very creative and musical minds.

It could be the Dutch weed, referenced by Berninger when he mentions he loves Amsterdam, but the band looks very relaxed on stage, more loose than I have ever seen them. Maybe it's also because by now they don't have to prove anything any more, after a string of very successful albums. It especially makes Berninger a bit less focused as he messes up his lyrics a few times. On the other hand, I really like this relaxed environment, as it makes their show less serious. Maybe it loses a bit of its intensity but I think the variation in the music makes up for that.

Berninger spends even more time in the crowd, filming with someone's phone and travelling quite a bit of distance. In one of the encores he even makes it all the way to the bar. The roadies are working hard to guide the mic cable when he does. He still looks quite uneasy on stage when he's not singing, walking nervously in circles like a caged animal. His vocals aren't always in tune, but this is kind of part of his style, always singing on the edge.

An acoustic almost unplugged and gorgeous 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' without microphone, where the crowd massively joins in, proves his amazing voice and ends the night. Tonight we saw a different The National, one that is having fun on stage and is enjoying every bit of it. I like that a lot and hope to see them next year again at one of the summer festivals.

All Pictures

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01. Nobody Else Will Be There
02. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
03. Walk It Back
04. Guilty Party
05. Sea of Love
06. Bloodbuzz Ohio
07. Born to Beg
08. I'll Still Destroy You
09. I Need My Girl
10. This Is the Last Time
11. Turtleneck
12. Santa Clara
13. Karen
14. Slow Show
15. Conversation 16
16. Carin at the Liquor Store
17. Day I Die
18. Fake Empire
19. Sleep Well Beast
20. Empire Line
21. Mr. November
22. Terrible Love
23. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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