Live Review: The National @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh

4 mins read
Credit: National Public Radio

Long before the doors even opened, fans gathered outside for The National’s second sold-out gig at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

The Ohio quintet are currently promoting their seventh album Sleep Well Beast – the band’s first UK number one.

Lead singer and songwriter Matt Berninger penned the album with wife Carin Besser as a soundtrack to a marriage on the brink.

After a slot supporting Foo Fighters at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, you may assume that the indie rockers could be playing bigger venues, but the intimate venue suited the band’s aesthetic perfectly.

This was proven early on by the band’s new tracks ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ and ‘Walk It Back’.

The dark, claustrophobic tunes were fitting to the smaller environment.

The band treated the audience as they played a collection of fan-favourites from their back catalogue such as ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’, ‘I Need My Girl’ and Bloodbuzz Ohio’, prompting a monstrous reaction from the crowd as it kicked off a word perfect sing along.

As well as the classic hits, fans were witness to rare gems including ‘Lemonworld’ and ‘Wasp Nest’, the latter of which is from 2004’s Cherry Tree EP.

Berninger was his erratic self throughout the set as he found himself amongst the crowd during ‘Turtleneck’ and ‘Day I Die’, where his angsty vocals were drowned out by members of the audience singing into the microphone with him.

He also restarted ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’, proclaiming to be lost in his thoughts.

But much to the amusement of the audience, Berninger was still clearly lost in his thoughts, leading his band mates, comprising of two sets of twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums, to sing the lyrics back to him.

Berninger may be used to singing the line “all the wine is all for me” for more than a decade (from the song titled ‘All The Wine’, funnily enough!) but last night he was in more of a sharing mood as he handed bottles to some fans whilst launching full cups at others from the back of the hall to the highest balcony.

Several wines later, the band arrive at the end of their set with ‘Fake Empire’, accompanied with a horn section. The fans once again jumped at the chance to belt back every word of the melancholic anthem.

This would have been a perfectly acceptable end to the night, but the band weren’t done as they re-emerged with a four song encore, kicking off with the aforementioned ‘Wasp Nest’, followed by 2013’s ‘Pink Rabbits’.

The politically charged ‘Mr November’ and intense ‘Terrible Love’ provide the perfect one-two punch to close the night on a high, although not before Berninger threw himself into the crowd one last time to instigate a chorus of singalongs which sent everyone home happy.


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