Live Review

The National, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

10th July 2014

The performance tonight leaves smiles on the faces of the crowd.

Playing to some of their biggest audiences ever and becoming the subject of their own movie is potentially a poisoned chalice - one which gives increased exposure but brings with it expectation of filling these new shoes effortlessly and instantly.

Once the lights go down at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall though, it becomes clear that The National are nonplussed with this increased level of fame. Cherry-picking from their back catalogue and assuming a mutual understanding between band and audience towards Matt Berninger’s inwardly-focused intensity, those with a breadth of knowledge in regards to the band’s career are the most catered for in the spacious and atmospheric venue. There’s a lack of movement from the crowd throughout that does suggest a slight disconnect between them and the band on stage, but this dissipates during the suddenly passionate encore which brings the audience to life with direct interaction.

Though the show is by and large a huge success from a band comfortable both in their environment and with their audience, there are evidently a few growing pains in the band’s style. Struggling to fill the space of the stage, the backdrop features an arbitrarily large television screen that is rarely used effectively. In addition to this, Matt Berninger’s introspective aggression stands at odds with lead guitarist Bryce Dessner’s stadium-rock posturing. The performance tonight leaves smiles on the faces of the crowd though, and with a set featuring all the hits as well as numerous fan favourites ('Slow Show', 'Abel', etc.) The National exit the stage to stomps, claps and cheers. It's an interesting way to approach increased success and very much in keeping with what we know of The National, but only time will tell if this turns out to be a successful plan.

The National, Usher Hall, Edinburgh The National, Usher Hall, Edinburgh The National, Usher Hall, Edinburgh The National, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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