The National’s Saturday Night Live

This report comes a bit late, but I just cannot get The National’s Saturday night performance and their newest album, High Violet, out of my head. The most intriguing thing about Saturday night’s sold-out “ZYNC from American Express Presents The National to Benefit Red Hot” at BAM was knowing that it was the grand finale for a week of music festivities at the National’s pop-up lower Manhattan venue called the High Violet Annex, adjacent to the Other Music record store. They impressively performed just before their highly anticipated BAM show (which sold out in record time) and brought a bus load of ticketless fans—literally, a busload— with them from Manhattan to the Brooklyn venue. I take that back. The most intriguing thing about the show was the fact that big-time director DA Pennebaker shot the show and streamed it live on Youtube. Or maybe the thing that really bowled me over was the fact that Sufjan Stevens joined them on stage. Or maybe it was the fact that Julia Stiles was right in front of me.

No, really that wasn’t it at all. The thing about the performance, aside from the fact that there was 14 people on stage, or that there was an awesome short documentary introducing the band before they took to the stage with “Mistaken For Strangers,” was that they were perfect. Intermittent band members Padma Newsome and Thomas Bartlett both performed with the band (they usually alternate this position) along with Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry and the aforementioned Stevens. It was an all-star game and the National was magic, fitted with dapper suits and glasses of white wine as their stage drink of choice. Matt Berninger was on—his disposition wildly moving from amiable stage man to impassioned: thrashing about in fits. His voice was pitch-perfect to the point that I thought I was listening to my iTunes, especially when he turned to his trademark crowd-walking, jumping down from the stage to blaze through the fans, standing on audience chairs—that weren’t being used anyway—and jumping from aisle to aisle.

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After the show, I skipped the ZYNC-sponsered private party held at the historical Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower due to prior engagement and I am SUPERPISSED I did. The National was just hanging out, genuinely chill and content, Berninger drinking his wine, glad to be back to his home in Ditmas following a Euro tour, getting cozy with a slew of talented band kids (Arcade Fire, Beirut) and yes, Julia Stiles as well. Beforehand I got to chat with the ZYNC people who were all music lovers and not ‘all business all the time,’ so I know it would’ve been awesome and not awk. I’m not one to carry around regrets but this was not a party to have missed. Someone please tell me it sucked. The video of Berninger’s walk through the crowd below.

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