Ditching the usual arena size venue for the intimate and perfectly tight Hammersmith Apollo, The National raised the roof in West London last night and closed out their three-night extravaganza in style.
The Ohio based band, formed in 1999, have been on the road for a very long time and were in fact the very first band I watched live in London in 2013. The group delivered an outstanding performance at Alexandra Palace four years ago, however, last night demonstrated that The National are still getting better after 18 years in the game and have added even more to their performance since I was first introduced to them on stage.
Utilising a dazzling array of visuals to accompany the set, a trance fell upon the crowd as ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ kicked off proceedings.
Filled with longing, regret, want and a hell of a lot of melancholy, you would think a sombre mood would perpetuate the atmosphere of a live National show, but nothing could be further from the truth.
‘You said we’re not so tied together, what did you mean? Meet me in the stairwell in a second, for a glass of gin…..’
The first words arrived and I was instantly plugged in. For me, A huge part of The National’s success is due to the resonance of their music, because somehow, everyone knows what it feels like for somebody they care about, to say they just don’t care as much.
Every song is full of little moments like this and it is hard not to relate to what front man, Matt Berninger, recites in his deep velvet voice.
‘Guilty Party’ paints a painful picture but it is the very fact that Berninger is able to articulate such a scene with deference that provides an almost cathartic release for anyone who knows what he is talking about.
‘I say your name, I say I’m sorry, I know it’s not working, I’m no holiday, It’s nobody’s fault, no guilty party, we just got nothing, nothing left to say.’
‘England’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Day I Die’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ were all soaked up and sung along to with gusto. ‘Fake Empire’ was the 19th song played and the band said their goodbyes but that was never going to be it.
After a few minutes of howling, clapping and whistling, the Cincinnati six reappeared and delivered the encore that everyone wanted, though it began with something entirely new and specifically prepared for the London show, A cover of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Fee’.
Personally, I value a band making that kind of effort to make one specific show different from another. The National are in the middle of a wold wide tour and the temptation would be to play the exact same playlist every night, however, based off their previous two shows in London in the two evening before, each set was different, meaning everyone got their own individual experience.
‘Mr November’ and ‘Terrible Love’ are brilliantly hard and loud songs which still contain powerful sentiments but it was the final song of the night which got hairs standing.
The opening notes of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ began but the microphone was turned out, immediately towards the crowd and so began the song.
Leave your home
Change your name
Eat your cake
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin’
Still no surprisin’ you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin’
I’ll explain everything to the geeks
After the full rendition and several repeats of the chorus, it was all over.
A brilliant performance with the perfect ending, what more could you want.