You have to be able to tap into the darkness. That’s the thing about The National. Their songs are not reflective of youthful exuberance, but weigh as heavily as the sandbags that lined the flood-rushed streets in Santa Barbara just one winter ago. They’re heavy, loaded with themes of love, loss, heartbreak, divorce...

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The National has come a long way since their formation in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1999. They are now certified rock stars, as evidenced by the palpable feeling of anticipation before their set at the Santa Barbara Bowl on September 22. So why is The National such a big deal?

Well, in a time when there are not a lot of solid rock bands to hang your hat on, The National has always delivered - and still always delivers -  solid sets with a charismatic frontman anchored by tight but large-sound instrumentals that reflect oppressive emotional weight that most adult people can channel, especially nowadays.

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They opened their set with four excellent songs from their new album Sleep Well Beast, ('Nobody Else Will Be There', 'The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness', 'Walk It Back’, and ‘Guilty Party'), followed by favorites for many of those who love their earlier albums from earlier days such as Alligator and Boxer (’Sorrow’, ’Start a War’, ‘Green Gloves’, and ’Slow Show’). Leaving the stage on more than one occasion, frontman Matt Berninger meandered not so gently through the audience, making it entirely across the floor during 'Terrible Love' before the length of his microphone cable stretched over the heads of fans, reaching its limits.

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It seemed like everyone in the audience sang along with recognizable hits like ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ and ‘Fake Empire’, two songs that helped to put this band on the mainstream map.

The entire performance was something that The National fans will talk about for a long time to come. If it’s cliche to use the word 'epic’, it’s really the only way to describe their performance of the anthematic 'Mr November’, and the audience-on-vocals performance of 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. Yes, the air at the Santa Barbara Bowl was chilly that night, but goosebumps were felt all around as the audience sang as a unified whole, and we all acknowledged that this was indeed, a very special night to experience.

SET LIST:

1. “Don’t Swallow the Cap”

2. “I Should Live in Salt”

3. “Mistaken for Strangers”

4. “Sorrow”

5. “Sea of Love”

6. “Hard to Find”

7. “Afraid of Everyone”

8. “Conversation 16”

9. “Squalor Victoria”

10. “I Need My Girl”

11. “This Is the Last Time”

12. “Santa Clara”

13. “All the Wine”

14. “Abel”

15. “Slow Show”

16. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

17. “Pink Rabbits”

18. “England”

19. “Graceless”

20. Fake Empire”

ENCORE

21. “Mr. November”

22. “Terrible Love”

23. “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”