With his newly-grown long locks and all-white suit ensembles, Matt Berninger seems to be totally embracing his alter ego role as the frontman for El Vy, the new band he’s formed with Brent Knopf of Menomena and Ramona Falls. On Friday night at the Independent, that exuberance was on full display.
The band only had a handful of shows under its belt before their gig at the Independent, but, being comprised of longtime music pros, their performance on Friday night was predictably tight. Berninger, who has transformed from an introverted and reluctant lead singer to a charismatic showman, was a captivating stage presence, a confidence he has garnered during the ascendance to prominence of the National, his primary band.
With only a single album of original material to rely on, the band’s set was lean (unlike the National’s penchant for 2.5 hour performances.) They opened with the ruminative piece, “Careless,” with Berninger’s trademark baritone vocals adding increased depth to an already somber creation. They band easily transitioned to their uptempo pieces, like “Happiness, Missouri,” and “Return to the Moon,” plus some of their quirkier tunes, like “Paul is Alive,” which combines Berninger’s laudatory lyrics to his idols The Smiths, the Cramps and the Beatles with Knopf’s unconventional musical stylings.
El Vy also dusted off their cover of the Fine Young Cannibal’s “Drive Me Crazy,” which is becoming a staple of their live set. It was a polished performance throughout, and the packed house (the show sold out minutes after tickets went on sale) seemed to truly enjoy seeing Berninger in a cozy environment (The National are now routinely selling out 5,000 and 6,000-seat venues.)
Opening act Hibou showed off their grasp of creating jangly, shoegaze-indebted dream pop nuggets. Sounding similar to their more well-known contemporaries, Diiv, the four-piece act out of Seattle proved to be an able warmup act, playing to an early-arriving crowd that nearly filled out the Independent, more than an hour before El Vy took the stage. The band noted that this was just their third show opening for El Vy, a departure from their previous tour with Big Freedia, the bounce music queen of New Orleans.