Ohio based rock and roll band The National have built up a loyal following with their consistent delivery of seven epic albums since the late nineties. From the release of The National (2003) by their own label, Brassland Records, to most recent Sleep Well Beast (2017), Matt’s dark, deep lyrics combined with the band’s intimate live shows leaves them seriously under rated.
It’s night one of two in Manchester and the O2 Apollo is full to the brim. The band are sneaky, building up fan anticipation by displaying a peak of backstage onto the big screen, before revealing themselves by opening with Nobody Else Will Be There from brand new album (Sleep Well Beast). The lights go down and the piano intro echoes through the venue.
There’s something about Matt Berninger which leaves us fixated – possibly his quirky mannerisms and honest enthusiasm for his music. The new album remains deep and the lyrics, often about love and most recently about simply enduring life, continue to reflect that understated, recognisable sound, but with an upbeat energy – something in which is lacking in sleepy album, Alligator (2005).
As well as the promotion of the new release, the band play a generous set list from a mix of previous albums including Bloodbuzz Ohio, I Need My Girl, England and Fake Empire. Their interplay of guitars, trumpet and piano create a definitive and ambitious sound; eighteen years on and their ability to take a large show and turn it into an intimate gig, feeling like it’s just you and them in the room, really is incredible. Matt gets involved with the crowd by jumping straight into the front row, throwing his microphone around and thanking fans, all the while consistently embracing every lyric sang to us.
The band conclude the evening with an encore; an evolved version of Terrible Love from High Violet (2010).
“it takes an ocean not to break…” blasts through the room as the band slowly leave the stage, followed by a long applause. The National really do create and continue to create something genius.