The English are waiting and I don't know what to do - The National in concert

After missing out on their last, sold-out show at the 9:30 Club, I wasn't about to pass up a chance to catch The National again. Opening for them were Doveman and The Rosebuds. Doveman, a New York based quintet, showed potential with their densely layered instrumentation and Gibbard-esque lead vocals, but they could have desperately used the services of a good sound engineer. Their sound was often disjointed and confusing, the vocals lost in a sea of instruments that didn't always appear to be playing the same song. The Rosebuds, a duo from Raleigh, NC, delivered a spirited opening set, combining soaring 80s synth pop with a hip-hop influence lyrical sensibility. Although they didn't use samples, per se, they did weave lyrics from There is a Light That Never Goes Out and In the Air Tonight into their songs. Their catchy single Get Up Get Out oozes college radio playability, and the male/female vocal dynamic sounds like an updated version of Human League meets early New Order.

The headliner took the stage as scheduled and delivered a tight, workmanlike set. Putting aside the lush instrumental feel of Boxer, one can't watch The National perform without realizing that these guys know how to rock. They're an exceptionally tight band on stage, led by the lanky Matt Berninger and his sing-song baritone that's equal parts Johnny Cash and Mark Eitzel. Their music is thunderous and beautiful and plaintive at the same time, and their obtuse lyrics mirror a detached stage presence. Even after 8 years leading the band, Berninger doesn't appear to be completely comfortable on stage. He has a minimalist stage presence, rarely engaging the audience directly. His most powerful moments come in uptempo numbers, his microphone thrust heavenward as if he were cursing God and the darkness.

The set consisted largely of tracks from Boxer, but the band did manage to work a few older crowd favorites like Mr. November, Abel and About Today into the setlist. The National is a band fully realizing their considerable potential. They leave you with the impression that they're on the verge of mass market stardom, should they choose to embrace it.