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After winning their first Grammy, The National don’t hold back at the Hollywood Palladium

The NationalBy Josh Herwitt //

The National with Phoebe Bridgers //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
September 20th, 2018 //

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve only been a fan of The National for a little more than a couple of years now. And though I was familiar with the band before then, it was merely by accident that they finally piqued my interest not that long ago.

It was a Thursday evening in the middle of summer when I got a text from a friend who said he had an extra ticket to their show at the Greek Theatre that very same night. The ticket, of course, was supposed to be for his girlfriend at the time, but they had just gotten into one of their volatile back-and-forths and there was no way she was going to go with him. I, like any devoted live music fan, wasn’t about to let her ticket go to waste, so I said yes on a whim and made my way to the venue, where The National invited St. Vincent and Adam Granduciel (of The War on Drugs) onstage as surprise guests and even performed “Morning Dew” from their massive Grateful Dead tribute box set for the first time. Pretty cool, right?

From that point on, I’ve made an effort to pay closer attention to what Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf and Bryan Devendorf have been up to. I knew I had some of catching up to do considering that they’ve been in the game for almost 20 years, but when their seventh studio album Sleep Well Beast arrived last September via 4AD, much of it caught my attention thanks to SiriusXMU — and for good reason.

The National

The 12-track LP, after all, would not only go on to produce five singles, but it also took home a Grammy for “Best Alternative Music Album” in one of the more encouraging moments at this year’s 60th Grammy Awards. So, at the Hollywood Palladium for the first of two nights in LA last Thursday, The National would give us all five of those singles, starting with “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and running through the remaining four as part of a 22-song setlist that opened with “Nobody Else Will Be There” just as Sleep Well Beast does.

Berninger, by now, is well-known for his baritone vocals and somber lyrics, and for that same reason, The National have never come across as one of rock’s more uplifting acts. Their music often sounds perfect for a rainy day, even though there are some energetic moments on Sleep Well Beast, be it “I’ll Still Destroy You”, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” or “Day I Die” as maybe the record’s most uptempo cut despite its obviously melancholy message.

Right before that final aforementioned single, they brought out Phoebe Bridgers to help them perform “Sorrow” from 2010’s High Violet, as Berninger and the 24-year-old singer-songwriter, who said during her brief opening set that The National were her favorite band, traded vocals on the tune they once played 105 times in a row, with the performance at an art installation in New York lasting all of six hours. We weren’t quite as fortunate to get that kind of show in LA, as The National opted for one of their more traditional, two-hour events. But whether you’ve been a fan from the start or one like myself who arrived rather late to the party, The National continue to make some of the most compelling music in rock, expanding their fan base with each and every album they release. That’s the sign of any good band these days, and though there’s only a handful of others that could even say the same right now, The National should take comfort in knowing they’re one of those select few.

Setlist:
Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Guilty Party
Don’t Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
I Need My Girl
Green Gloves
Lemonworld
Born to Beg
I’ll Still Destroy You
Slow Show
Sorrow (with Phoebe Bridgers)
Day I Die
Carin at the Liquor Store
Graceless
Rylan
Fake Empire

Encore:
Light Years
Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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