The National kicked off the 12th annual Tribeca Film Festival Wednesday night with the premiere of their documentary, “Mistaken For Strangers,” and an after-party at Highline Ballroom where the band played a 10-song set that previewed music from their sixth album “Trouble Will Find Me,” out May 21 on 4AD.
The documentary chronicles the touring experiences of Tom Beringer, brother of lead singer Matt who decides to join the group on their 2011 tour as a roadie and encounters a series of humorous as well as poignant moments on the road. One of the film’s key scenes involves Tom singing “O Holy Night,” a moment brother Matt gave a special nod to onstage at the Highline by kicking off The National’s set with the Christmas hymn.
Brother Beringer would get several other shout-outs throughout the night, including in the new song “I Should Live In Salt,” which opens the album and features piercing guitar work from band members Aaron and Bryce Dessner, another set of National brothers.
Other onstage shout-outs went to the band’s longtime tour manager Brandon Reid, whom Beringer insisted was “not a villain,” contrary to his portrayal in “Mistaken for Strangers,” but rather “a really nice guy.” He then dedicated “Alligator” favorite “Mr. November” to Reid, which features the famous line, “I won’t fuck us over I’m Mr. November.” Later, the group’s manager Dawn Barger of Post Hoc Management got a set-closing dedication from Beringer for her decade-plus relationship with the band.
The Tribeca gig represents one of The National’s very first live shows of 2013 in support of “Trouble,” and gave the band a chance to showcase several other new cuts, including brooding lead single “Demons,” the rocking “Sea Of Love” (sample couplet: “Hey Joe sorry I hurt you / But they say love is a virtue”) and a triumphant “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” which featured machine gun drumming from Bryan Devendorf paired with an extensive trombone solo.
Though the new material was well-received by the largely film-centric crowd, the relatively intimate Highline showcase was just a brief tease of The National’s next hometown show — a headlining gig at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on June 5.
The Opening Night premiere and party were co-sponsored by American Express, who previously collaborated with The National for a 2010 concert that became the basis for AmEx’s event series “Unstaged.”