Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Nov. 14, 2008
The NationalWaterloo Park, Nov. 8
Repeatedly disclosed as the band's final show before a long recording hiatus, the National has never appeared as loose and unbridled as it did Saturday night. Their notoriously dark and angst-rattled aesthetic still propelled the headlining set as frontman Matt Berninger bathed in the blue light and cradled the mic like his hope, but he flung himself around the stage in relentlessly broken catharsis and clearly had fun doing so. The flourish of added horns on songs like opener "Brainy" and "Baby, We'll Be Fine" bolstered the driving surge of guitars and anthemic swell of "Squalor Victoria," while multi-instrumentalist Padma Newsome bowed furious on violin. Though rushed to beat the curfew cutoff, the Brooklyn band hit high points from last year's Boxer and 2005 breakout Alligator, especially "Secret Meeting" and an addled "Abel." The brooding pulse of "Start a War" and "Fake Empire" throbbed direly into the evening, the latter best exploiting the new brass swell in a scathing call to arms, but crowd favorite "Mr. November" closed the night on a defiant and triumphant note.