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The National

TheNational3Belvoir Amphitheatre

Friday, February 14, 2014

As the sun went to rest for the night on a sweltering Valentine’s Day, singles and couples alike staked their spots at the majestic Belvoir, nestled in the picturesque wine-making Swan Valley, ready to immerse themselves in what could possibly be the best gig of this year.

Luluc, a Melbourne-born duo but now Brooklyn-based, warmed up the stage. Their set primarily consisted of acoustic tunes with lyrics and vocals that are infused with a sense of longing and nostalgia and their pleasant and harmonious melody is perfect for a slow dance with your significant other. Unfortunately they couldn’t win over the hearts of the crowd, who gave only scant to the attention to the stage.  As the stars were emerging in the skies and their set was about to conclude, the masses coalesced into the pit.

A palpable excitement built up around the pit and the amphitheatre as the latecomers made their way into the scene. There was that feeling that the headliner could come on at any minute and such was the excitement that the crowd cheered when lighting projections were finished. When the crew got the screens working, a second cheer rose throughout the amphitheatre.

There was rapturous, almost screeching applause when The National took to the stage. Immediately kicking off the set with Don’t Swallow The Cap, each song was like a setpiece, well-presented with its own lighting theme and visual backdrop. It started slow and then build up to a grand crescendo, with lyrics that are depressing, melancholic and yet with an element of hope. You come in drowned and you come out baptised. They ploughed through a total of 26 tracks picked from across their albums Boxer, High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me, and of those Bloodbuzz Ohio and England were amazing live.

Each member of the ensemble is immensely talented on their own. The Dessner brothers on their guitars were responsible for nearly half of the experience, and Bryan Devendorf exerted great energy on the drums, however, the baritone vocalist, Matt Berninger, pretty much ran the show and called the shots, solemnly singing into the microphone one moment, and furiously screaming the next. Around halfway into the show, he decided to make his way into the crowd – the response was everyone clamouring to touch his hand or get hugged. He then stopped over to sing at the big gum tree in the middle of the pit before swinging back on stage.

The finish was an utter spectacle. The crowd was given the mic to sing an acoustic version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. The joy of participating and seeing everyone else singing the chorus was ephemeral. For a moment, it felt like paradise.


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