Rock in Rio Lisboa: During the coming-of-age concert, The National became emotional as if for the first time

Unlike the gentleman who preceded them on the Mundo Stage, Liam Gallagher, the Americans of The National know the corners of the house that is, for them, Portugal, having performed there 18 (!) times since their debut in Paredes de Coura. another life was in 2005. Since then, everything has changed: we have changed, the group has changed, the world has changed. In 2005, Matt Berninger, the leader hesitant member of the group from Ohio, would certainly not walk on the treadmill which leaves the stage to friendly provoke the public, any more than the group which, more than 20 years after its formation, continues to rely on the Aaron twins and Bryce Dessner and brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf, will perform at festivals of this size. The authors of “Alligator”, the album they brought to Paredes de Coura 17 years ago, naturally gained scope and ingenuity on stage: in the album that followed, the highly esteemed “Boxer” , from 2007, and in the four feature lengths modified since. But they haven’t grown enough, in popular recognition, to “fill” an imposing stage like the one where, tonight, they performed in front of headliners Muse. Which isn’t to say that his debut at this festival didn’t go surprisingly well.

Flanked by the crystalline guitars of the Dessner brothers, Matt Berninger remains, despite all his efforts to the contrary, an atypical vocalist. Like all shy people, he resorts to many tricks (strange gestures, emotional outbursts) to survive in a world of extroverts, and this singular recipe seems to seduce the public. In front of the stage, as happened with Liam Gallagher, the biggest fans were concentrated (and manifested); in the huge audience, curiosity seemed to be the general note. Rock in Rio Lisboa audiences, festival gods keep it that way, want to party – sorry, they want to party, so they never got tired of showing their support for The National, clapping their hands on the most rock songs or turning on their cell phones in ballads like ‘I Need My Girl’ or ‘Light Years’, the only representative of the most recent “I Am Easy To Find” (2019). In the latter, the giant screens returned the image of a Matt Berninger moved by the affection of the public losing his sight. It was as if, despite being veterans of the scene in Portugal, the five members of independent royalty, accompanied this evening by several musicians on winds and other instruments, still had to show what they had come for: and the presentation was successful.

Contrary to what happens with Xutos & Pontapés, who opened this first day of the festival and whose songs are on the tip of their tongues for half the world, The National never had a great success that made them known to the masses. We saw the one who hummed ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’, taken from the 2013 album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, the most represented of the line-up, and ‘Fake Empire’, elegant spearhead of the acclaimed “Boxer”, would have had the most applause during the opening seconds. But, once again, a salute to the public of Bela Vista, who encouraged the band in ‘The System Only Sleeps in Total Darkness’, from ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (2017), in the sweet ‘Pink Rabbits’ or in ‘ England’, a successful cover of 2010’s “High Violet”, in which Matt Berninger performed one of many stage jumps, achieving some dramatic effect as he strolled along the railings during the song’s crescendo .

The adorable ‘This Is The Last Time’ or the most catchy ‘Day I Die’, dedicated by Matt Berninger to the “angels” who scared him in the drag (“And I Don’t Even Believe in Angels”), were other good moments from a gig where, in the background, the band was overwhelmingly performing. When we witness the final crescendo of ‘Slow Show’, for example, with the sound explosion contrasting with the delicacy of a phrase that many will have tattooed in their memory (“You know that I dreamed of it for 29 years before see you”), it made us think how good it will be to discover, in 2022, a group with so many songs to carry in the pocket of the heart.

For the end, The National has kept a trident that hardly fails: ‘Fake Empire’, pure gold today as it was 15 years ago, when it was released; ‘M. November’, the glorious anthem of “Alligator” and one of those songs to take to the other world, and “Terrible Love” which, in its dynamic quiet/noisyseduces the public and serves as a pretext for a new dive of Matt Berninger in the public.

On his way back to the stage, as the band crumbles in a storm that lives up to the title of the song, the 51-year-old musician appears to be showing his age, observes someone next to us. But as long as the concert lasted, he had the age—tender, pure—of all the premieres. Before the band’s first time at Rock in Rio Lisboa, we didn’t know what their price was with such a large audience, but we’ve come to realize that the stock market continues to smile on them. 21 years after their debut album, The National are still an introverted, umbilical band, in the most poetic sense of the senses, but they’ve learned to live outside of their skins – luckily for all of us.


Don’t swallow the cap
Taken for strangers
bloodbuzz ohio
The system only sleeps in total darkness
I need my daughter
This is the last time
slow show
the day i die
Tropic Morning News (Haversham)
Light years
pink bunnies
false empire
Mr. November
terrible love

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