THE NATIONAL rode their UK tour into Edinburgh in style with a stellar 22 track setlist on the first of two nights in Scotland‘s capital. Typically passionate on stage, Matt Berninger and co. ripped Usher Hall to shreds with an accumulation of old school classics as far back as Alligator‘s The Geese of Beverly Road from 2005 to modern greats from their latest LP, SLEEP WELL BEAST.
Cult followers of the Ohio outfit packed out the venue from barrier to the furthest back seat in the highest tier in order to catch a glimpse of one of the most incredible performances; both visually and audibly, of recent times – when news of limited last minute tickets being available from the box office broke, hundreds of fans queued in desperate hope of getting in. Many failed, but those who managed to squeeze into Usher Hall will all agree that it was worth every penny spent and minute waiting to get there.
Kicking things off with the ambience soaked Nobody Else Will Be There gave an instant hint of serenity, and when the likes of emotionally charged Guilty Party and I Should Live in Salt also feature in the opening five tracks you wonder if it is going to be an atmospherically teary show to absorb and bathe in. Subtle, head-nodding ballads pull the gig along with Don’t Swallow the Cap and the ever-progressing Afraid of Everyone give The National an energetic step up before the raw, in-your-face verbally battering Turtleneck.
Fresh from the release of a number one record, it was interesting to hear how they come across live, but equally intriguing to hear how pure and timeless time capsuled classics from Boxer; Green Gloves to name just one, still come across. What was most striking from the whole evening, though, is that although Usher Hall is a 2000+ capacity venue, there is an overwhelming sense of intimacy between stage and audience. Was it the mesmerising visuals behind the band? The darkness captured inside the theatre-like building behind closed doors? The heartfelt ballads being poured from Berninger‘s lips? To be honest, it was a combination of all three that make The National so enigmatically beautiful.
Rounding the night off with both passion and delicacy; the Cincinnati collection belt out Mr November, which sees Berninger traipsing across stage and fall to his knees before a more composed rendition of Terrible Love. For a band who so infrequently visit the UK, it is as if they are one of our own children we have cherished and poured adoration forever. Edinburgh night one is complete, but the memories will always stick with the lucky 2000 in Usher Hall on THAT September night.