Gig review: The National, Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Usher Hall. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Edinburgh's Usher Hall. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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ANYONE whose main experience of Ohio by way of Brooklyn hipsters-turned-superstars The National has come through their most recent album Trouble Will Find Me might have found the ground shifting beneath their feet at this highly-anticipated show.

The National

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

* * * *

The record itself is delicate and mournful, set off by the prominence of singer Matt Berninger’s warm baritone, a vocal safety blanket whose distinctive tones helped propel the album to top three positions on both sides of the Atlantic when it was released last year.

It’s fair to say that this live show – one of only two in the UK this summer, alongside their Neil Young support slot at Hyde Park this weekend – didn’t present the last record in the light we might have anticipated. The music was turned up loud and fuzzily-toned, and the ragged-bearded Berninger’s voice often fought against it rather than floating above it, as a floor-to-ceiling video backdrop of weird cartography and solarised street scenes blared in the background. The effect was different but not unpleasant, as the resolute, regretful sadness of I Need My Girl, Pink Rabbits and Graceless were fogged with an extra layer of melancholy.

On the other side of the tonal coin, however, Berninger and co cut loose with unexpected and rising fervour throughout the show, from the pulsing guitar and shimmering drum lines of England to the rousing trumpet crescendo of Fake Empire and an encore which saw him unexpectedly parade through the audience during the charging Mr November and accede almost every vocal of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks to his audience.