The National have grown in popularity with each album, so much so that this time around, they headlined Live at the Marquee in Cork. The band’s moody brand of disconsolate rock hasn’t changed terribly over the years but it seems tastes have caught up with them, as apparently this was the only sold-out gig in the run of Marquee shows.
The evening opened with the epic rock of Tall Ships, who managed to combine shades of Interpol, Arcade Fire, a slowed-down Vaccines with a dash of rocked-up Sigur Ros. Which was better than that sounds!
The opening moments of the National’s set gave a true reflection of where this band are at now. Kicking off with I Should Live In Salt, it was clear that the sell-out crowd adored the band. Every single song got a rapturous reaction with the audience singing every line word-perfect. The trumpets and trombones on Bloodbuzz Ohio prompted old-school style clambering up on shoulders. Squalor Victoria produced a hilariously literal reaction from the crowd, singing and re-enacting the line “raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens”, while a physically shattered looking Matt Berninger broke out tortured screams.
Occasional quiet moments like I Need My Girl and This Is The Last Time allowed the crowd to catch their breath. There was a peculiar appeal of people singing along to some of their lyrics, was some sight to witness a host of people singing “I was afraid I’d eat your brains, ‘cos I’m evil” (Conversation 16).
After the curious diversion of Pink Rabbits which evoked Billy Joel of all people we were on the home stretch. England, one of the highlights from 2010’s ‘High Violet’ prompted unashamed euphoria, maintained by the rocked-up ending to Humiliation. The torrent of great songs was unabating: Mr November, Terrible Love, before finishing with the singalong Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.
It’s curious that this unassuming band with their downbeat songs have connected, not just with thirty-something year olds with mortgages, but also a host of male and female twentysomethings, each song being greeted more gleefully than the last. Though they have graduated from sweaty clubs to the stadium circuit they retain the capacity to connect on a human level.