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The National Unveils Five New Songs at Intimate Woodstock Show

Group withheld playing the Taylor Swift duet 'The Alcott' from new album, which is out April 24
Photo: Josh Goleman

For the past seven years, the National has recorded nearly exclusively at group member Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond studio in upstate Hudson, N.Y., with the area’s beautiful scenery and serene environments no doubt seeping into the band’s music.

Tonight (March 4) in front of about 400 people at the intimate Bearsville Theater in nearby Woodstock, the National gave back to the supportive community in and around which albums such as Sleep Well Beast and I Am Easy To Find have been made with a short-notice show, its first since last September. The group’s upcoming release, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, was also recorded at Long Pond, as were Dessner’s pandemic-era, Grammy-winning collaborations with Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran’s upcoming Subtract, on which he was heavily involved as a writer and producer.

The lucky fans in attendance tonight got to hear First Two Pages of Frankenstein played in chronological order, including five songs which had yet to be performed live. The National did, however, skip for unknown reasons the song “The Alcott,” which on the album is a slow-building duet between Swift and the group’s singer, Matt Berninger.

Of the debuts, opener “Once Upon a Poolside” and “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend” were weighty, piano-dominant ballads, “Alien” coasted on a resigned but genial drum machine groove before building to a burst of loud guitar from the Dessner brothers, and closer “Send of Me” was a warm, hopeful meditation on helping a friend through any number of challenging scenarios. The National also debuted the uptempo “New Order T-Shirt,” which hit DSPs last week.

First Two Pages of Frankenstein will be released April 24 by 4AD. Besides Swift, Phoebe Bridgers guests on “This Isn’t Helping” and “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend,” and Sufjan Stevens lends a hand on “Once Upon a Poolside.” Swift co-wrote “The Alcott” with Berninger and Aaron Dessner.

The National won’t return to the road until May 18 in Chicago, but have dates booked internationally through early October. The group will headline Madison Square Garden in New York for the first time on Aug. 18, with support from Patti Smith and Her Band.