Playing their second sold-out show at Manchester Apollo, purveyors of indie doom and gloom The National find a couple of reasons to be cheerful.
‘Trouble Will Find Me’ has been The National’s most commercially and critically well-received release. Live, it translates into a cathartic and exhilarating experience. The band open with that album's highlight ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’, which features the hook 'Everything I love is on the table' and alludes to the death of Tennessee Williams by purportedly choking on the cap of his bottle of eye drops. Followed by the similarly delicate ‘I Should Live in Salt’, an apology for firing his brother as the band's assistant tour manager (see new film 'Mistaken For Strangers'), singer Matt Berninger finds his default position: a soothing baritone vocal and a firm grip to his microphone as if a matter of life and death.
Berninger is an odd frontman. Never seen without a dark suit, he looks like a bearded History teacher and puts on a convincing performance of a man undergoing a turbulent personality crisis, flipping from sophisticatedly sipping from a wine glass to knocking his microphone to the ground like a possessed punk. On Alligator’s ‘Abel’, he lets rip 'My mind is not right' like Donald Duck on 40-a-day before taking it down a notch or few to grapple with the confessional romance on ‘Slow Show’.
The National may be at times intense and emotive, but their live show is by no means a theatre of doom and gloom. It’s easy to get excited at laugh out loud moments, of which there are a fair few, such as Berninger stretching his mike cord to take the final chorus of ‘Mr. November’ from the Apollo toilets. By the time the band pulls out their final song, an acoustic version of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, the beautiful grade II listed theatre packed with a few thousand shrinks to an intimate candlelit mass with all eyes worshipping the stage.
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