Despite being located between two major cities with large concert venues, Washington D.C. and Norfolk, Richmond still manages to attract big name artists as well as many local musicians. From The National to The Broadberry to The Richmond Coliseum, there are many opportunities to hear live music. Just last weekend, Riverrock on Brown’s Island brought 11 artists to Richmond.
This past Monday, I attended a BØRNS concert at The National. The singer had two opening acts. The first was a young up-and-coming band, Beau, which seemed to have a confusing identity but an overall cool sound. The second band was Coast Modern which definitely set the show off on the right note and got audience moving before BØRNS came on stage. BØRNS’ unique indie-pop sound filled the venue and the crowd was singing along and moving in time to the music from the first song, “Seeing Stars” which is an upbeat blend of electro-pop and glam rock from BØRNS’ debut EP, Candy. The audience was entranced from the first sound of the dreamy lyrics and ambient vocals. The show was not sold out and this meant that it was relatively easy to obtain a prime viewing spot, but thanks to the quality layout and acoustics of The National, virtually every spot was a great one as the building filled with the euphoric sound of Dopamine.
Garret Borns, pictured above, is the lead singer whose appearance and persona embodies the flashy, but muted and dreamlike lyrics and sound of his debut album, Dopamine. With a 1970’s inspired boho vibe, it is clear that BØRNS is his music and his music is BØRNS. On Monday night, BØRNS walked out on stage in a flowy floral button-down shirt tied up, his hair down, and wearing a Gucci belt to top off his thrift store bohemian look.
BØRNS possesses the unique quality of connecting so easily with his audience. Before the fist song, he greeted the crowd with an, “Hello, friends”. After playing, “Seeing Stars” BØRNS moved on to other fan favorites like “Dopamine” and my personal favorite, “10,000 Emerald Pools”. The crowd recognized the opening chords immediately and the ensuing 3 minutes were magical. The vibe of BØRNS performance, like in the lyrics to “10,000 Emerald Pools” was chill, and it really felt as though the song embodied the atmosphere of the concert, “Down to the bottom / 10,000 emerald pools / Underwater / Time is standing still / You’re the treasure/ Dive down deeper / Still, all I need is you”.
The surprising hit of the show was “Overnight Sensation”. The audience knew every word and BØRNS made sure to play up audience participation during this slower glam rock song in particular. The lyrics, “Immaculate creation / Overnight sensation / God you really outdid yourself with this one,” felt special and almost magical during the live performance. The lyrics felt more authentic and meaningful when watching Garret Borns sing them live.
BØRNS is one of the few artists that sound better live. The echoey quality of BØRNS’ music creates the perfect sound for a live performance. Although the sound is heavier on the rock instrumentals, the easy, ethereal feeling you get while listening to Dopamine is still present in full force during a live BØRNS performance. Thankfully, BØRNS will be returning to Richmond this September to play a show with The Lumineers at Richmond International Raceway.
Since the release of Dopamine in October, BØRNS has been playing all over the country and even had a very successful performance at Coachella earlier this year. BØRNS was just beginning his summer tour when he played at The National, but will travel more on tour this summer. The Michigan native will travel over to Europe before heading back to the states to tour with The Lumineers and Rayland Baxter this fall. I am excited to continue to follow BØRNS’ success and I cannot wait to see him perform again in September.
The verdict: The National is a fantastic concert venue and Richmond is lucky to have a great space for music. Although the space is small, The National brings in great musicians to Richmond. BØRNS is amazing live and I would recommend a BØRNS concert to anyone.
The National, http://www.thenationalva.com/