It's been more than a year since The National has played a hometown show, so it's no wonder that the three consecutive shows they booked at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park sold out. It's been a year since their latest LP, Trouble Will Find Me, but Wednesday evening's extraordinarily long set (25 songs!) drew from all corners of the band's hefty discography. Under the soft glow of the Christmas lights strung in the trees in Prospect Park, it was a nearly perfect night.
Matt Berninger and company opened with two Trouble Will Find Me cuts: "Don't Swallow the Cap" and "I Should Live in Salt." The sound was dicey at the beginning of the evening; Berninger's vocals were far too low in the mix and the distortion-heavy guitars were too high, costing the songs their melody and typically lush quality. Happily, the issue was resolved a couple songs in, and the length and quality of the ensuing set dwarfed the sound snafu at the beginning.
"Mistaken for Strangers" followed, and then "Ada," which featured a chill-inducing horn section that morphed into the chorus of Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago" at the end. Berninger said of Sufjan, "He's probably really embarrassed that we just did that." Evidently not that embarrassed, though, because Stevens took to the stage a few songs later for High Violet's dark "Afraid of Everyone."
The unexpected set highlight was relative rarity "Exile Vilify," the beautiful, brooding, violin-punctuated track known for its appearance in the video game Portal 2. The main set closed with "Fake Empire," and Berninger and company played a four-song encore that ended with "Terrible Love," then "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks."
The National has, as this point, achieved the kind of fame and conventional success that bands dream of. The audience loved their decade-old songs just as much as their newer ones and hung on Berninger's every word. It was a friendly crowd, a gorgeous night, and a band that has proved its resonance and staying power in well over a decade of staggeringly impressive records.