THE NATIONAL [Which Stage | Friday, June 11 @ 5:45 p.m.]
Can I use this space to discuss lead singer Matt Berninger? Because while the rest of the National were as tight as any band you could hope to see (with the horns adding an especially uplifting touch), that man defines their live show. I've always found the National's studio work to be a tad tedious. Which is why I was sprawled out on a blanket in the back of the field when they took to the stage. And Berninger is the reason why, by set's end, I found myself 10 feet from stage, desperately wishing I knew the lyrics so I could croon along with him. On album, he settles back monotonously among the layers of instrumentation; live, he built his energy throughout the tracks until he was screaming the hooks, never sounding unnatural thanks to that goddamn delectable baritone. He dominated the front of the stage, sometimes even relying on the extension cord on his mic to take a lap around the crowd and using the first few rows as his allegorical cheerleaders while chanting the lyrics to "Mr. November." The setlist borrowed heavily from new record High Violet, as the band resuscitated the lamenting tracks with life. As Berninger swilled straight from a wine bottle, chicks and dudes alike proclaimed their unbridled love for the man who delivered my surprise favorite set of the weekend.

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