Arriving somewhat late for the gig, due to bad weather and a diversion in Leeds, the National have already started when I arrive at the Leeds Metropolitan University. Getting into the hall is a bit of a bind – for some reason people are squashed back against the rear doors, and don’t seem to be moving forward or out of the way of anyone that wants to actually get in. A quick look about shows that there’s room nearer the front, so I go further down so I can actually see the band that I’m supposed to be reviewing.

It’s a warm night, and it’s sweaty in the hall, but once I’m within striking distance I can see that people are dancing and enjoying themselves. And that’s as it should be. The National play very accessible indie rock music, adding trombone, trumpet and violin to the usual combination of bass, guitar and drums and this adds that something extra to the music to carry it way above the standard indie fare that is often performed. The musicianship is excellent and the songs are beautifully crafted. Some are very simple whilst others are more complex and draw you in.

As well as showcasing material from their latest album, 'Boxer', the band also play enough of their older songs to keep the audience satisfied. During the encore, the support, who I missed, Carline Martin joins the band for a cover of one her own songs, 'Without Permission', which the National's singer Matt Berninger says is one of his favourite love songs. He enjoys banter with the audience and the rest of the band, with an impromptu rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for drummer Bryan Devendorf taking place at the beginning of the encore. The National also hand out drinks to the front rows of the audience. It’s hot where I am, so it must be a sauna down there!

I really enjoyed this gig, despite not really having heard much by the group before, and wondered why they’d escaped my radar. I suppose there are so many bands and so little time, but I’m glad I made the time tonight.

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Commenting On: Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, 1/7/2008 - National

ie London, England

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