Of the faces in the various snaking lines inside Alexandra Palace tonight, many are nauseatingly smug-grinned. But who can blame them? Not only have they got some tasty (albeit pricey) munch lodged in their throat and the occasional rogue stream of lukewarm ketchup dribbling down their chin, but they also have a ticket that's the equivalent of gold dust scrunched in their fist. After all, it's the first night of The National's long sold out, two-show stint at the Ally Pally and this will no doubt be an occasion to savour.

Duly, for anyone fortuitous enough to get a glimpse of Brooklyn's finest this evening, this is a treat from the get-go, even if their leader is unusually quiet and seemingly less than 100%. Dressed in their best bib and tucker though, they still prove every bit worth their enviable stature with a scintillatingly thunderous 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' - set to a brain-contorting backdrop of bubbling, red blood cells. It's exceptional, but still later stood up by another poignant High Violet ditty; the brooding 'Conversation 16' which, even with Matt Berninger's hoarse and slightly under the weather delivery, provides a moment of majesty that'll surely be seared onto the collective memory - especially after its gargantuan "I'm evil" refrain rears its head.

Thankfully, material from this year's Trouble Will Find Me already greets like an old friend too; 'This Is The Last Time''s maudlin outro proving itself just as heart-clawing as anything else in their arsenal. That said, it's The National's loyalty to their former spikiness, which really endears here; the Dessner brother's furious fretwork and Berninger's primal yelps at 'Squalor Victoria''s crowning point are as gloriously rugged as ever, with the latter's lab-like specs and stage-writhing making him look like an unhinged chemistry assistant on the edge.

After some suitably rainy visuals during an epic 'England' and 'Graceless''s Joy Division-aping gloom, Berninger and Co lure ten thousand pocketed hands with a grandiose 'Fake Empire'. It is stunning, but in testament to their status as a deeply rewarding entity, they're not done - returning with the mother of all encores. 'Mr. November''s meteoric chorus is delivered in a throat-ripping howl, as its source voyages around the room on a sea of arms, but it's the unplugged singalong of 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' that notches this one above the usual soulless bill-top set. With ears ringing from a show-stopping and frenetic 'Terrible Love', Berninger leads the brimming space through its "All the very best of us / String ourselves up for love" chorus, alongside near-silent accompaniment. This may not quite reach the heady heights of their stellar Roundhouse show in July, but the near-perfect reproduction of a glistening back catalogue, as well as a monumental curtain call, are still the work of a band that are infinitely and undeniably impressive.