It’s fair to say that I have not been a long time fan of The National; in fact I only got into them a few months ago after a friend had been going on about how much he was looking forward to the new album ‘High Violet’. And just a few days before the gig, the same friend offered me a ticket to go see them, insisting that I do so. So off to the Electric Ballroom I went!
It had been a little while since my last visit to see Metric play the Ballroom, with only the Shred Yr Face tour before that, and I have to say, it’s a venue I quite like. Tickets are normally quite reasonable, the sound system is good and the lighting is normally quite good without being too elaborate.
We arrived at the Electric Ballroom a little after the doors had opened and got ourselves down the front of the venue while the support act Buke And Gass were playing. Sadly, I thought they were a bit rubbish. It’s not very often a band bores me but they got very samey, very quickly. Their general sound consisted of an acoustic guitar which you couldn’t hear, an electric guitar playing the same chord over and over or playing a riff that sounded like a 13 year old had written it and this was all accompanied by the vocals which were okay to be fair. I just found that the songs lacked any variety between them and went on a bit too long.
Thankfully, they were the only support and so The National themselves were next on and they started the set with a haunting rendition of ‘Anyones Ghost’ from the new album which came across beautifully. In fact the majority of their first five or six songs came from the new album with ‘Afraid Of Everyone’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ both getting an airing; only the fantastic rendition of ‘Secret Meeting’ broke up the run of new material. For such new songs, they sounded like they’d been playing them for years and the crowd appreciated every second of it.
After that, a good run of classics were played with the crowd getting more and more into it. The band themselves seemed to be loving every minute of it as well and they sounded great. Matt’s vocals really were something special and really do seem to mesmerise you at times. He seemed so at ease on stage when singing and when casually wandering around between his parts while the rest of the band just got on with it. As I mentioned in the intro, the lighting at the Electric Ballroom is normally pretty good and this was the case again with subtle changes of lighting being enough to enhance the experience but without distracting too much from their performance.
As good as the bulk of the set itself was, the best was most definitely saved for the encore which started with a beautiful version of ‘Runaway’ but didn’t really get going until ‘Mr November’ kicked in, sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Matt himself seemed to sense the change in energy from the crowd and obviously thought that the crowd was the place to be so ran into the crowd still singing. And respect to the guy for managing to make it the entire length of the venue and carry on singing (that’s one hell of a mic cable if nothing else!). And that’s where he stayed for the final song of the night with ‘Terrible Love’ rounding the night off.
Overall, it was an amazing set and a hell of a long one at just under two hours. At no point of that did my interest ever wane, which goes to prove just how great they were. The new tracks more than held their own against the old material and to anyone who had never heard of them, it would be difficult to figure out which were the new tracks. It was also impressive how easily they could flit between a real slow, melancholy tune to an all out indie-rock track.
A great night and great to see such an established act so comfortable in themselves on stage.
The National – Secret Meeting (live)
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