The National

By Alva Casey

Artist:  The National

Date / Venue:  Tuesday February 4th, Vector Arena, Auckland

I have never been to a concert where the band's ‘walk on' was not an ego boosting hit of theirs, but rather a greeting from the lead singer - Matt Berninger; "Hello, how are you doing?". I loved it! Further to that, before getting underway, a lovely introduction was made to Logan Coale who was standing in for Scott Devendorfon bass as Scott was at home with his new baby. Good work/luck Scott. Then, and only then, did they start.

"Don't Swallow The Cap" from their most recent album Trouble Will Find Me kicked us off. We moved from there to "I Should Live In Salt" which is possibly one of my favourite songs of all time. Not saying that the concert was all about me but I was most definitely in my happy place by then. I doubt I was the only one.Vector Arena was packed with a sea of indie heads. The retro kind of indie, originally born from this sort of music. Less the modern, hipster kind that requires a dedication to rare coffee beans and a rehearsed look of aloof disinterest.

As they worked their way through the set, my admiration for the lighting and backdrop graphics grew. The team managed to create the feeling that one was watching a music video throughout. Each song was granted its own unique display that complimented the music beautifully.  There were no large screens showcasing the action onstage. We focused instead on the live performance and hence were drawn closer to the band. It made the vast arena feel smaller and more intimate. I would also go so far as to say there were far fewer camera phones in the air interrupting the view then usual.

The whole gig was peppered with little chats to the audience. Another mention to Scott's new baby, a salute to the recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman accompanied by their song "Lean", a shout out to his brother Tom's documentary "Mistaken For Strangers", a shout out to Lulac the support band and a very generous mention of our own Lorde and her Grammy success. She was, and I quote, "The best thing about that circus." Kudos kid. That's a pretty good shout out to get.

Hat tipping wasn't reserved for people only. New Zealand featured too. There were threats to abandon the tour and road trip around the South Island in a van. As long as you finish this concert first lads. The rest is at your disposal.

The concert was, unsurprisingly, a promotional tour for their latest album Trouble Will Find Me. Naturally the set was a wonderful display of many of the tracks all much loved by the audience not least "Sea Of Love". However the crowd pleasers came thick and fast as gifts from Boxer, High Violet and Alligator rang out.

My only criticism of the evening would be with any sort of crescendo the sound system struggled. This is by no means a fault of the band or the sound techs but unfortunately a plague of any musician playing Vector. The arena is a librarian wishing us to remain hushed. However this was easily overlooked by the sheer quality of voice and instrumentation. Yes they have been touring for years with much experience behind them but to keep a live performance in such a big stage so true to the recordings is no mean feat.

"Fake Empire" just before the encore had everyone beside themselves so it was hardly surprising that the band was still on stage attempting a dignified walk off when the shouts for an encore started. They fired back with "Humiliation" and then continued with a rousing finish; "Terrible Love" had all in uproar with Matt displaying energy that no man should have at the end of such a performance, Leaping into the crowd, racing up the stands. His return to the stage had all his companions in a line and with arm around shoulder they sang "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks". The whole audience sang too. Gone were the fancy projections and lights. This was a one for all and all for one salute to the end of the night.