Experimental Music Love

January 8, 2008

The National – King Tut’s, Glasgow 17/11/05

Filed under: Live Reviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 5:27 pm

It’s with a heady anticipation that I step into a packed King Tut’s Wah
Wah Hut with the prospect of seeing possibly the best band in the world
today. The National have slowly but surely been increasing their
reputation since forming at the turn of the millennium in Brooklyn.

Their 3 album releases have had little commercial success, but have impressed
the critics a great deal, especially their latest release “Alligator” with
the likes of Uncut, Billboard and The Independent all hailing it as one of
the albums of 2005. As with all critically acclaimed bands, a cult
following has built up, and most of the Scottish contingent appears to be
in this most dark and intimate of venues in Glasgow’s West End.

San Francisco newcomers Film School provide the support, their post rock
soundscapes echoing the works of Mogwai, yet let down by a weak singer
and repetitive songs. Never mind, surely The National will lift the
mood?

The set opens, as with “Alligator”, with the haunting, almost
suffocating, “Secret Meeting”, its chilling sentiment echoing around the
tiny venue. Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals drive inside every member
of the audience, and everyone is transfixed. Recent single “Lit Up”
follows, with its catchy, pop chorus

Like the first two songs, the set consists mainly of work from Alligator,
though a few older songs do get an airing. “Murder Me Rachael” gets a
particularly good reception from a vocal crowd as Berninger exudes emotion
as he hoarsely cries “loved her to ribbons”.

There are several highlights to a stunning set of songs, with both “Mr.
November” and “Abel” sounding even more aggressive and powerful live than
they do on record causing much contorting in the front man’s Curtisesque
movements on stage. The way the music makes him ferociously claw at his
shirt suggest its ability to make him free and unconstrained.

Moments of genuine beauty graciously contrast with the more hostile
numbers throughout. “Daughters of the SoHo Riots” is a particular slice
of the divine, causing the entire crowed to hush and fixate upon
Berninger’s distinct vocals.

Even with the abundance of great songs played superbly, this still
doesn’t feel like a truly great gig. There’s just that special something
lacking. Maybe it’s the lack of enthusiasm from the audience during
certain parts of the set, or the band not really interacting with the
crowd as well as they could have, but perhaps that’s just the sort of
band The National are.

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