The National wins over a partying pop crowd at Made in America

The National perform at the Rocky stage on the first day of Made in America on Saturday August 30, 2014 on the Parkway. (RON CORTES \ Staff Photographer)

Indie rock is not Made In America’s strong suit. There are a handful of top-shelf bookings, such as Mayer Hawthorne on Saturday and Spoon and Grimes on Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, the fest pulls in its people with hip-hop and classic-rock headliners and a heavy dose of EDM.

So there was some question as how well the brooding Brooklyn band The National would go over with a determined-to-party pop audience. After all, there’s a high seriousness to singer Matt Berninger’s songs. The “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” admission in “Afraid Of Everyone” that Berninger shared on Saturday was an admission of paranoia that wasn’t in step with anyone else on the bill (except maybe that raving genius in the top spot, Kanye West).

And to be sure, The National’s stately hour-long set, complete with horn section, was a chill-out interlude in a relentlessly energetic day. But it was also one of the day’s unquestioned highlights. That’s because The National are a band that builds a majestic wall of sound never overblown but, on Saturday night anyway, always compelling, from Berninger’s sonorous vocals, to Bryce Dessner’s careening guitar, to the way Berninger knocked the microphone on his noggin with a percussive agenda. Most impressive.

-- Dan DeLuca

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