While Berninger prefaced "Conversation 16" by saying it was for married people, one of the Dessners dedicated the tune to three guys he met at a nearby Japanese restaurant. One of the guys was evidently having an allergic reaction to truffle fries he'd eaten earlier that night and was having trouble breathing. "He didn't die," though, he reassured the audience. "He's okay."
While most of the set was made of made up of tunes from the National's latest effort, High Violet and 2007's Boxer, the group offered up an intense take on "Abel," from 2005's Alligator, before slowing things down considerably on "Daughters of the SoHo Riots."
Before closing the set with "Fake Empire," Berninger dedicated the tune to Brandon Reid, who came on board as sound engineer around the time Alligator came out. "That's when people started coming to our shows," he pointed out.
The band came back for a pair of encore tunes from Alligator. During "Terrible Love," Berninger made his way through the middle of the crowd while singing as the song built up to a noisy, joyous climax. In what made for an absolutely gorgeous show-closer, all seven musicians stood together for a completely acoustic take of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." The acoustic guitars weren't plugged in, and there weren't microphones on the vocals or horns, but it was a totally organic experience with the crowd singing along (see MerrySwankster clip below).
Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist.