By all rights, The National shouldn’t be here today. Masters of introspection and intimacy, Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage at sunset isn’t normally reserved for bands like the Ohio quintet. Tonight though, they completely command such a billing.
After the blissful ‘Fake Empire’ makes an early highlight - fit with a stumbling Matt Berninger doing his best ‘yer da’ fist-pumping - the band delve into upcoming seventh LP ‘Sleep Well Beast’. First single ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ sounds monumental live, with Aaron Dessner using its guitar solo to stake a claim for being Berninger’s equal in showmanship. ‘The Day I Die’ is a propulsive, reflective cut that’s bordering on anthemic, while ‘Walk It Back’ - a track played at the band’s Latitude headline set last year, previously called both ‘Checking Out’ and ‘Roman Candle’ - sees Berninger at his most self-aware.
A quartet of new songs give way to ‘I Need My Girl’ and a gorgeous, driving rendition of ‘England’, dedicated to the crowd and recent events in Manchester and London. Then, before playing ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, Berninger whips his phone out and asks anyone from Ohio in the crowd to call their local senator and protest a new health bill set to be passed next week. The message is slightly dulled when slurred from a man throwing white wine all across stage and crowd, but the intention is firmly there.
As is accustom in The National’s sets now, a lightning one-two of ‘Mr November’ and ‘Terrible Love’ get the biggest reactions of the evening, before a new song, ‘Turtleneck’, sees the band get as angry as they’ve ever been. Vicious, punk-inspired guitars sit underneath Berninger’s howl; the nerve to finish one of the biggest shows of the band’s lives with a new, unreleased track can only be justified when said song is quite as good as this. Brilliantly unconventional as always, and pointing to the future, The National more than earned their place tonight.
Want more DIY at Glastonbury japes? Head here to listen to our onsite podcasts with Metronomy, George Ezra, Marika Hackman, Circa Waves and more!