Indie sweethearts The National ended their 18-date 2023 North American tour in Toronto after playing their headlining slot at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The National has come a long way from the struggling days in New York City in the late ’90s to become one of the most critically acclaimed indie bands. They have accumulated loyal followers who have enjoyed the ride with them, and it is a testament to their longevity. Surprisingly, some younger people were in the Toronto crowd, accompanied by their parents, maybe due to key collaborations by Phoebe Bridges and Taylor Swift on their fantastic ninth album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein.
The National opened their set with the mellow, meditative and emotional brooding track, “Once Upon a Poolside,” which was only ruined by people chattering and some late fans heading their seats at Budweiser Stage. The opening track was a good ease into their setlist before heading into their breakout, breakup anthem, “Eucalyptus,” which plays better live than the more refined, more subdued version on their album. This is partly due to Matt Berninger hollowing and screaming as best as he can to the song’s chorus, “You should take/Cause I’m not going to take it/If I miss it, I’ll visit,” and the crescendo of guitars and brass horns at the end, which is one of the stand out tracks off the new album.
Over the course of two hours, The National played from their backlog of albums such as Abel, a deep cut from Alligator, “Apartment Story” from Boxer, “Conversation 16,” “England,” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio” from High Violet, and the set ending, emotionally cathartic, “About Today” from Cherry Tree. They also have been debuting a new track called “Space Invader” during their encore.
The best thing about seeing The National live is the camaraderie and community of fans and the sing-a-longs during their encore tracks. The National ended the night with fan favourites, “Mr. November,” with Matt Berninger parading through the crowd and fans hoping to grasp the singer and catch a glimpse in the mob, love anthem, “Terrible Love,” and ending with the acoustic sing-a-long, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” with Berninger orchestrating the crowd’s singing.
The National is headlining their 2023 “Homecoming Festival” in Ohio, then heading to the UK and Europe for a set of dates in Sept and Oct. 2023.