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The National @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 09/01/2011

Written by Sarah Shepherd on January 13, 2011

With their fifth album High Violet featuring high on many end of year best-of lists, The National’s Australian New Years tour carried huge expectations and excitement. Following two sold out nights in Sydney, the band must enter their two shows (also completely sold out) at the Palais with considerable confidence.

As drummer and John Lennon look-a-like Bryan Devendorf does his own sound check, familiar drum beats of the album roll through the extravagant theatre; a small taste of what’s to come as a wide variety of punters make their way to their seats. This variety is testament to The National’s music and its wide appeal.

Casually strolling on stage and opening with The RunawayHigh Violet, it’s a far cry from usual opener Mistaken For Strangers. A slow- but nonetheless beautiful- start, Mistaken For Strangers quickly follows and shows the rockier side of the band.

Anyone’s Ghost and Bloodbuzz Ohio follow to great receptions. Arguably the most popular cuts off their most recent effort, the former sees the bottom level cautiously rise to their feet. Billed as the only danceable track, punters were encouraged to ‘get it out of their system on this one’- an offer that was taken up by most.

Afraid of Everyone played out as haunting eyes were projected onto the wall behind the band. A true feature of the show, the projections and light show were certainly up to scratch for one of the world’s finest rock bands.

Somewhat predictably closing the main set with Fake Empire, the band shortly return for a reinterpreted Lemonworld, Mr November and an intense Terrible Love. With singer Matt Berninger returning from another foray into the crowd, the band huddle towards the front of the expansive stage.

Berninger joins them in the middle and his baritone leads the band- and almost 3,000 now-devotees- through an entirely unplugged version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. The finest ending to a show imaginable, the masses sing along in the lowest of whispers, creating a beautiful sound and moment.

A rare opportunity to see a band at their best, The National delivered an outstanding show and surpassed all (very high) expectations.

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