PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s something mischievous about attending a rock concert at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
Somewhere between the printed programs and mahogany woodwork you tend to feel like you’ve snuck into a space you don’t belong – like stopping into your friend’s father’s study, in awe and uninvited.
Between Orchestra Christmas performances and violin explorations of Bernstein, the lush, immaculate and pristine Verizon Hall inside the Kimmel played host to the band The National.
As the crowd still filed in, tour opener Kate Stables of This Is The Kit described the room as “a little bit like being in the bottom of a well.”
“A very nice well” she continued. “It’s the nicest well I’ve ever been in the bottom of.”
The epic nature of the room with rich texture and sky-high tiers faded into the background though as The National emerged shortly after nine o’clock.
Armed this evening with several songs off their recently released seventh album Sleep Well Beast, singer Matt Berninger and company started with the classic “Karen” which was all at once breezy and anxious. The same could be said for Berninger throughout much of the evening who sports a casual brand of charisma, pacing the stage and examining the band, never hurried or rattled.
Most times Matt appears, well like he’s at a National concert, sipping a solo cup between awkward aisle dance moves and strumming air guitar. That is except for the times when he’s totally not and larger than life, climbing over seats and weaving a mic wire though the crowd, or screaming choruses dripping with emotion. In those moments you are very much at his show.
The latter of those moves have become legend for the Cincinnati band, whose climb over the crowd during their “Terrible Love” closer always provides one last burst of feeling. On this night Berninger would also make his way through the sold out sea of people for new addition “Day I Die”, taking one cell phone and several hugs along the way.
Politics were present as the band dedicated several songs facetiously to political figures like Jeff Sessions and Sally Yates. Perhaps none were more on the nose though than the shout out for Jared Kushner before playing a searing version of “Secret Meeting”.
After two hours of music The National’s wall of drums and horns and antics crashed down into a pile on stage, leaving only one acoustic song left. With the mic pointed to the crowd and two guitars strummed on stage, the whole room sang. “All the very best of us, string ourselves up for love.”
The National will continue their tour to D.C. and to Canada this week. Their latest Sleep Well Beast is nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.