Ohio quintet The National released their self-titled debut album some 16 years ago, with new album Sleep Well Beast their first to clinch that number one slot in the UK. Across their seven albums, Matt Berginer and co have produced an impressive and consistent body of work, always there for you to have a cry and really nailing that relationship-based neurosis.

The second of four nights at Hammersmith Apollo saw the band play 11 tracks from this recently-released album. Berginer’s unique voice with dulcet tones remained as captivating as ever - only using his voice for tracks themselves, however, rarely offering any chat between tracks. Each and every track by The National has a sing-a-long core to it, such is the succinct wordsmithery and repetition of lyrics of their work - although it’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ that received the most audience participation.

Berginer frequently paced around like a restless caged animal on-stage, yet for quieter songs he turned into a static figure almost spooning the microphone, clinging on for dear life. The occasional missiles of drink he launched into the crowd - with a surprising velocity and distance (a woman not paying attention near us close to the back being whacked in the head).

Each night provided small changes to the setlist (such is the breadth of quality now in their back catalogue), so while Tuesday evening saw no 'Mr. November', the audience was treated to a cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’. Not quite enough to make up for lack of 'Mr November', but hey you can’t win them all.

The underrated and subtle 'Born To Beg' followed by 'Terrible Love' made for one of the more sombre encores of their four-night stint (with the devastating 'About Today' preceding the encore also). High-energy, kinetic performances by Berginer and the band were offset with deeply brooding, more skeletal numbers, and thus kept interest levels high; an impressive light show added to the thrill of the evening. While it perhaps wasn't the all-encompassing, emotional affair the show could have been, it was certainly a highly memorable night by a band at the peak of their game.

Setlist

Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Guilty Party
Sea of Love
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Empire Line
Turtleneck
I Need My Girl
This Is the Last Time
Dark Side of the Gym
Mistaken for Strangers
Graceless
Carin at the Liquor Store
Sleep Well Beast
England
Day I Die
Fake Empire
About Today
Encore:
Heaven
(Talking Heads cover)
Born to Beg
(with This Is the Kit & Lisa Hannigan)
Terrible Love

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