With its Columbus show Saturday night, The National reinforced fans’ love for the band with their balmy chords and melancholy lyrics crooned by frontman Matt Berninger’s deep baritone.
A beautiful summer night set the scene for the Next @ Wex Fest held at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion’s outdoor venue. The festival is one part of a series put on by the Wexner Center for the Arts, which aims to bring attention to up-and-coming indie scene music artists.
Mount Moriah, a three member indie-folk band from Durham North Carolina, and Local Natives, an indie-rock band with a sound similar to Fleet Foxes, opened the show.
Though the event had not sold out, the day of the show, hundreds packed the venue, filling the pit closest to the stage and sprawling onto the grassy hill behind, making finding a spot with enough room to comfortably stand difficult.
The crowd represented The National’s typical following, alternative, hipster 20 to 30-somethings who are probably also in the Wexner Center’s target demographic.
The National took the stage under pink skies from the setting sun. The five members were dressed in all black, toting plastic red Solo cups and accompanied by two additional horn players.
The band opened with two songs from their latest, May 2013-released album “Trouble Will Find Me,” playing “I Should Live in Salt,” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap.” These songs are two of The National’s more comparatively upbeat tracks, though still quintessentially representing the band’s sound, and their energy set the stage for the rest of the show.
However, it was apparent the real crowd favorites were older releases.
The set included songs from the band’s 2010 release “High Violet,” such as “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Afraid of Everyone” and “Sorrow.” Also in the mix were “Mistaken for Strangers” and “Fake Empire” from “Boxer” (2007).
The crowd “raided our heavenly glasses to the heavens” as the band played “Squalor Victoria,” which was followed by a song from the new album, “I Need My Girl.”
As a transition between the two songs, Berninger joked, “This song is less angry, it’s actually not angry at all. It’s just super sad. It’s our other kind of song.”
The band played songs from their archive as far back as “The Geese of Beverly Road” and “Abel” from “Alligator” (2005).
Despite being an alternative indie band with often dark and depressing lyrics, The National kept energy up throughout the show in a fashion more typical to a rock concert, the whole time radiating confidence and passion.
The band closed with a three-song encore, culminating in an acoustic version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” and the crowd sang along.
Fans of The National often say it took them a few listens to enjoy and appreciate the band. However, this extra effort is returned tenfold once listeners can really recognize the value of the band’s music.
These guys do not produce catchy songs that you can sing along to after the first listen. Rather, they display real musical depth, creating songs that you can hear for the hundredth time and still understand in a new way.
This was strikingly clear seeing them live. Hearing each song brought about a new listening experience that, for fans, only cemented their love and appreciation.