No, Taylor Swift did not appear during The National’s Madison Square Garden concert. And honestly, why would anyone have wanted her to? It took this band over 20 years of incredibly consistent albums and reliable live performances to build a loyal, diehard fanbase the old fashioned way. They earned their chance to play a sold-out show at the world’s most famous arena on their own terms, and over the course of the 27-song set, they proved they didn’t need to share this stage with anyone.
Of course, they weren’t totally alone on the evening of Friday, August 18th; Patti Smith and her band opened the show, bringing an added dose of legend to the legendary venue. There was a personal element to her performing with The National as well, as frontman Matt Berninger noted a comment she made on Instagram (“Try to remember the best of him”) had inspired many of his lyrics. In fact, it’s the bridge refrain of new song “Smoke Detector,” a track the band debuted live earlier this month and brought out again for the MSG gig.
The National also dropped the recently released “Space Invader” into the encore, showing confidence in the new cut (and Bryan Devendorf’s mind-melting drumming therein!) by placing it alongside all-time favorites “Light Years,” “Mr. November,” “Terrible Love,” and the crowd singalong “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” The set opened with a trio of First Two Pages of Frankenstein tracks — “Once Upon a Poolside,” “Eucalyptus,” and one of our favorite songs of 2023 so far, “Tropic Morning News” — but their entire discography got some shine throughout the nearly three-hour show.
Which, again, just went to demonstrate how The National merited this opportunity to play in front of 19,000 of their fans in their (semi) hometown. Whether it was Berninger testing the limits of his mic cord as he took to the crowd during “Day I Die,” the screaming on “Abel,” or that transportive audience chorus for closer “Vanderlyle,” each song was evidence that even Sad Dads (as their merch proudly displayed) could rock an arena.
See for yourself by checking out the complete photo gallery below, followed by the setlist. The National and Smith have a Toronto show on Sunday, and they’ll reconvene in Cincinnati for day one of the former’s Homecoming Festival, where the band will perform High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me in full. Get tickets to those dates here, and European fans can get tickets to their fall shows here.
Photo Gallery – The National play New York’s Madison Square Garden (click to expand and scroll through):