The National’s latest album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, is less than a month old, but the group already has new material fleshed out enough to perform live. During its 2023 tour opener last night (May 18) at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre, the group debuted the song “Turn Off the House,” which was marked by drummer Bryan Devendorf’s skittering beat and hypnotic guitar arpeggios from Aaron and Bryce Dessner.
Right beforehand, the National dusted off “Murder Me Rachael” for the first time since 2014; the track, which can be found on the group’s 2003 sophomore album Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, hasn’t been part of the setlist rotation in 15 years.
In Chicago, the National played seven of the 11 songs from First Two Pages of Frankenstein, many of which were road-tested last year well in advance of the album’s release. The Frankenstein version of one song, “Eucalyptus,” was even partially constructed from a recording of its first live performance during a show in Port Chester, N.Y.
The National will play three more shows in Chicago through the weekend. As reported earlier this week, the group is reviving and headlining its Homecoming festival in its members’ Cincinnati hometown on Sept. 15-16, with performances from Patti Smith and Her Band, Pavement, the reunited Walkmen, and Weyes Blood, among others.