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By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “Last night was different, it was in a way better than our previous shows,” said Matt Berninger, the ever calm and pleasant frontman of the Brooklyn-based indie rock band The National. “The show was at a small, intimate venue, and we could feel how much more the people were connected.”

The National in concert at Circo Voador in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Sibel Tinar.

From the moment the band appeared on stage and played the initial notes of Runaway, accompanied by Berninger’s enchanting baritone vocals, the music, accentuated by spellbinding lyrics and brilliant stage lighting, was all that existed for the enthusiastic crowd that filled up Lapa’s famous Circo Voador last Friday, April 8th.

As they closed the concert with an heartfelt, acoustic iteration of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, causing everyone’s hearts to skip a beat, the consensus within both the audience and the band was clear: this was one of the most emotionally-connected shows they have ever experienced…

The National is a band founded in Ohio during late 90s by the lead singer and the mind behind their captivating and at times pleasantly odd lyrics, along with two sets of brothers: the guitar-playing twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf, who play the bass and drums, respectively.

After making Brooklyn their home, they have released five full-length albums, taking a step closer to recognition and expanding their loyal fan base with each one. With Alligator (2005) and Boxer (2007), they already had captured the hearts of indie rock fans around the worlds; but their music also gained notoriety as being too dark and heavy.

The Lapa venue Circo Voador, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
The Lapa venue Circo Voador, famous for its world-class shows, was once again at full capacity, photo by Sibel Tinar.

“We are described as very dark and miserable – it is true that we have moments like that,” says Matt Berninger. “But I think all our albums have a balance, and a light, uplifting side as well.”

Regarding their latest album High Violet (2010), which has won countless awards and listed as one of the best albums of the year, Berninger says: “The idea for this record was making it more light-hearted.”

The band has been to Brazil and Rio before, in 2008, as part of a festival. The enthusiasm of the fans that had caught them by surprise them then was only bigger this time, and was the very thing that brought the band to Rio in the first place.

An initiative by queremos.com.br, which aimed to sell about 300 tickets at a higher price to raise enough funds to book the band was wildly successful, as in a short time the show was confirmed and regular tickets were on sale.

“What the fans have done to bring us here was incredible, and definitely unique,” said Berninger, who among the audience that night has counted Caetano Veloso, a legend of Brazilian music.

With São Paulo being the center of nightlife, cultural events, and alternative culture of Brazil, Rio so far was mostly getting ignored by many non-mainstream artists who visit Brazil. The incredible performance by The National, combined with the fascinating audience reaction, is also a positive sign for the future of the underestimated indie rock scene of Rio de Janeiro.

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