Live: The National Salute The Dead Geese Of Prospect Park


The National
Prospect Park Bandshell
Tuesday, July 27

It’s great fun, actually, to watch National frontman Matt Berninger get steadily more and more intense during his 90-or-so minutes onstage, pacing the stage manically, jumping up on his monitors even though he’s like seven feet tall, wielding his mic stand as though he intends to throw it like a javelin, constantly threatening to jump into the crowd to just wander around, and slowly eroding his dulcet baritone down to hissy-fit shrieks of “MY MIND’S NOT RIGHT!” or “WHY DO YOU DRESS ME DOWN AND LIQUOR ME UP?!” or “I WON’T FUCK US OVER!” or “SQUALOR VICTORIA!” The less sense he makes and the more ridiculous he looks, the better.

The National need that jolt. The band’s sad-sack indie-rock is so calm, so consistent, so grey-oceanic, so exquisitely vanilla that his tantrums, though as arbitrary and nonsensical as a two-year-old’s, are necessary counterpoints, tipping over your chair just before you fall asleep. Tonight, on a gorgeous and mercifully temperate evening in Prospect Park (“probably my favorite place on the planet,” he notes, shortly after dedicating “Geese of Beverly Road” to, well, you know), he keeps all those brooding, delicate tunes from running together, as when an otherwise superfluous horn section helps him spice up the churning “Conversation 16,” with its absurdist anthemic chorus: “I was afraid I’d eat your brains/’Cause IIIIIIII’m evil.”

Otherwise, these guys have great songs (“Slow Show,” “Mr. November,” the anti-encore wallowing of “Sorrow”) I’m slightly tired of hearing, so let’s hear it for the one true screwball: “Available,” from 2003 Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, a splendidly crude rant (it’s the “dress me down/liquor me up” one) from the pre-acclaim, pre-polished, pre-stately era, Berninger howling like a man relieved to not have to act like an adult, the crowd relieved that he’s no longer trying. For the “Terrible Love” grand finale, he finally jumps into the crowd and does his aimless-wandering thing, and this, too, is a welcome sight: better he not know where he’s going, so you won’t, either.

Ye Olde Setlist
“Mistaken for Strangers”
“Anyone’s Ghost”
“Bloodbuzz Ohio”
“Baby, We’ll Be Fine”
“Slow Show”
“Afraid of Everyone”
“Little Faith”
“Conversation 16”
“Apartment Story”
“Geese of Beverly Road”
“Daughters of the Soho Riots”
“Fake Empire
“Secret Meeting”
“Terrible Love”