thu 18/08/2022

The National, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow review - rapture, catharsis and jokes | reviews, news & interviews

The National, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow review - rapture, catharsis and jokes

The National, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow review - rapture, catharsis and jokes

Cincinnati indies play new album and old favourites over two summer nights

The National: fun guys to beat withGraham MacIndoe

With their claustrophobic melodies and cryptic lyrics, The National are not the most obvious of choices for a summer evening. But then, The National of 2019 are not the same band. On recent album I Am Easy to Find, frontman Matt Berninger’s signature baritone is often on the periphery, while female voices take the lead.

Three of those collaborators - Mina Tindle, Eve Owen and Kate Stables of This Is The Kit, fresh from her opening set - joined the band’s seven-piece touring line-up for two shows in Glasgow, performing their own parts from the album as well as standing in on parts originally performed by the likes of Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten.

If torrential Scottish rain (and a surprise appearance from Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches) provided the atmosphere on the first night, the change in musical pace supplied by the guest vocalists underpinned the second. New songs like “Oblivions” and “So Far So Fast” sound fuller, more human than in album form, while the richness of the backing vocals add a whole new dimension to more familiar material including “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “Green Gloves”.

New album opener “You Had Your Soul With You” kicks off a set of nearly two hours, Bryce Dessner’s jittery guitar part contrasting beautifully with the lushness of Tindle’s verse. “Quiet Light”, the gorgeously melancholic second track, may have been better suited to after the sun went down, but its bittersweet lyrics tug on the heartstrings regardless.

Touring band members Ben Lanz and Kyle Resnick, on brass, come into their own on “The Pull of You”, while Berninger screams and fits his way around the song’s spoken word interlude and otherworldly “sometimes I don’t think I’m really around here at all”. Stables steps in admirably for album vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey on a gorgeous “Hey Rosey”; while all three female vocalists join forces on “Where Is Her Head” like a choir of hellbound angels soundtracking a nervous breakdown.

With most of the first half of the show - the immersive “Bloodbuzz Ohio” excepted - drawn from the new album, the old favourites don’t really get a look-in until darkness starts to set in. “This Is the Last Time” becomes an unlikely singalong, the female vocal part oddly taken on by Bryce and Aaron Dessner, while “Apartment Story” and “The Day I Die” get a similarly rapturous reception. A delicate rendition of “Wasp Nest” - apparently the Dessner brothers’ mother’s favourite song - silences the park until Berninger picks a comedy fight with somebody in the audience, while crowd favourite “Fake Empire” sounds even more magical than usual as fireflies dance in the light from the stage.

It’s hard to believe, if you’ve never seen The National live, that this music that sounds like the inside of your head is exploding comes out of one of the world’s least serious bands. Berninger in particular is having a great time, telling risqué jokes as he weaves in and out of - and even, during a rowdy encore performance of “Mr November”, completely through and around - the crowd. “Graceless” ends with him on top of a piano, almost certainly setting off alarm bells behind the scenes at the Category B listed bandstand, while “Terrible Love” - with Owen offering vocal counterpoint - provides a rapturous, cathartic finale.

It’s hard to believe that this music comes out of one of the world’s least serious bands


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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So you didn't stay to the end then? The heart wrenching About Today was the finale!

Caught, haha. I wasn't using "finale" entirely literally! Incredible show regardless!

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