Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

The National: Thrilling performance in a space that was just too big

American band The National brought brooding indie rock – with trombones – to the Odyssey Arena on Saturday night, and only just managed to master the challenges of the cavernous venue.

Their most voluble fans couldn't make up for the arena being around one-third empty, pointing to the fact this was too big a space for a cult band like this, even with their growing following.

The expansive set embraced songs from their six albums, from I Should Live in Salt and This is the Last Time on this year's Trouble Will Find Me, to Cardinal Song from 2003's Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers.

Endearingly, the downbeat mood which characterises them is at odds with the niceness they displayed, thanking their fans, the man who signed them, the cast of Game of Thrones after visiting the set during the day and their support act.

Dressed in black, deadpan frontman Matt Berninger drank red wine and induced delight in fans by deliberately dropping his mic on the floor of the stage.

In the encore, excitement grew when Berninger climbed in to the crowd and was borne aloft by his eager fans, as he sang/shouted his lyrics in a blistering performance of Mr November.

That collective euphoria was enough to make the shed-like arena shrink to feel like the intimate venue that suits The National best.

But the band topped that with an acoustic performance of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks from High Violet.

The Odyssey was just too big for a band of their singular sound and select following – but that didn't stop them giving fans a performance to cherish.

MARGARET CANNING

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