The National Finish All the Wine at The Wiltern

The National Finish All the Wine at The Wiltern

The National
PHOTO by Lindsey. Full set here.

“I’m put together beautifully/Big wet bottle in my fist/big wet rose in my teeth/I’m a perfect piece of ass.”

The National entered the spotlight at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on Friday night as you’d expect them to: upstanding, cool, dark suited and tied. Matt Berninger sings, “showered and blue-blazered/fill yourself with quarters,” over brothers Dressner and Devendorf’s calm, sorrowful instrumentation on “Mistaken for Strangers.” At first, the lights were low, and the sound was bad. Matt left the stage frequently between songs, and finally returned with a full bottle of wine all for himself. It’s only just begun.

The sound’s been adjusted and Matt’s made it a glass or so in by the time we get to “Afraid of Everyone,” one of the many odes to the loneliness of aging on the Brooklyn band’s latest masterpiece, High Violet. He starts singing more forcefully and loses his footing occasionally as he circles the stage, slightly frantic. Lost in the brightening lights, he begins to crack as he repeats the song’s closing line, “Your voice is swallowing my soul soul soul.” He’s not singing to us as much as speaking for us.

For the remainder of the set, the band serves as a steady base for Berninger’s breakdown, never missing a beat as Matt’s bottle of wine slowly empties. The band glides through highlights from their 3 most recent LPs, including Alligator’s “All the Wine,” Boxer’s “Slow Show” and almost all of High Violet. With each song, Matt’s walk becomes more and more stumbled as his bloodbuzz compliments the soft baritone of despairing lyrics. “Tired and wired we ruin too easy/sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave,” Matt sings on “Apartment Story”, one of the many lyrical references to his dysfunctional relationship with New York City.

Later on in the set, the first notes of “Abel” kick in and the crowd cheers. “My mind’s not right!” yells a man from behind us, offering a preview of the song’s chorus. This is when Berninger’s suffering becomes palpable. He’s nearly finished his bottle, his suit has come undone, and he flips the mic stand carelessly over his back as he screams, “My minds not right!” repeatedly. It hurt to watch, but it was beautiful none-the-less.

To end the night, The National banged through a 4-song encore that included Berninger floating through the general admission crowd during “Mr. November,” passing the microphone off to fans and eventually being carried across the venue and back to the stage. “Terrible Love” serves as the final reminder of the band’s overwhelming talent, and knack for conveying raw, debilitating sadness. “It takes an ocean not to break,” sings Berninger. He should really consider a move to the beach.

Elizabeth Stolfi |

1. Mistaken for Strangers
2. Anyone’s Ghost
3. Bloodbuzz Ohio
4. Afraid of Everyone
5. Secret Meeting
6. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
7. Little Faith
8. Slow Show
9. Squalor Victoria
10. All the Wine
11. Conversation 16
12. Apartment Story
13. Abel
14. Sorrow
15. England
16. Fake Empire
17. Runaway
18. Lemonworld
19. Mr. November
20. Terrible Love