The Gossip were only a couple of doors down but since I never jumped on that band wagon, I settled with like-minded people in wait for the National. The band made up of Matt Berninger and two sets of brothers, Bryan and Scott Devendorf and Aaron and Bryce Dessner, were joined by violinist Padma Newsome and played mostly from two of their critically acclaimed albums, ‘Alligator’ and ‘The Boxer'.

Expecting a fury of a night, they opened with ‘Start A War’ and even though they didn’t manage to induce such anarchy, the pulsing drums in the instrumental outro set the mark for the rest of the set to aspire to.

And the songs that followed did exactly that and more. The clear favourites being ‘Abel’, ‘Secret Meeting’ and ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, whilst ‘Mr. November’ was just too hot to handle bringing the audience to an excitable mass. Feeding from this, Berninger stood at the edge of the stage to share the microphone with anyone who knew the chorus. But it wasn’t all about his Ian Curtis vocals, as the rest of the band (except the drummer for obvious reasons) also ventured to the front of the stage to play as intimately as they could to the Nottingham crowd.

It was this interaction between the audience and the band that was the unheralded highlight of the night. There were humorous comments about Berninger’s mother and his insight on where the Gossip’s after party was, generous applause and the thank yous that followed and the song requests shouted drunkenly by an over zealous audience, suitably requesting ‘All The Wine’. This comfortable rapport is what held the night together. There was also a lot of mirroring, as the band followed the audience’s example and drank heartedly, Berninger even prolonging the intro for ‘Squalor Victoria’ in order to get an already opened bottle of wine from the side stage room.

Mixed in with songs that would make you spill your drink as you danced along, were the forlorn ‘About Today’ and Daughters Of The Soho Riots', which displayed Berninger’s rich baritone vocals. This gave the gig an all-round complete feel which the audience truly appreciated as their call for an encore was genuine and not just going through the motions of a performance.

My only disappointment (and it’s a minor detail), is the lack of trumpets in ‘Fake Empire’. Towards the end of the song, U2-esque drums are joined by trumpets and choppy guitars, giving the song and the band a unique feel. This is my favourite part and, considering that the guitarist in the supporting band took up the trumpet in his own set, I was hoping that he would join the National to fulfil that part of the song, but he didn’t. Oh, but that’s just me nit-picking. The wonderful thing about gigs is that they’re not meant to sound exactly like a studio recorded CD. Besides, Newsome played the violin to the same effect.

Now for a little Q&A :

Q. What is the name of the National’s current album?

A. 'The Boxer'.

Q. What song did they choose to play as they walked off stage at the end of the night?

A. 'Rocky’s Theme Song', of course - a little cheesy but given their performance it is easily forgivable.



The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Laurent Orseau and orignally appeared on his website www.hinah.com











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