The National @ Manchester Academy 27/11/10

Few bands have enjoyed a better 2010 than American quintet The National. On the back of the release of their fifth studio album ‘High Violet’ in May, the band have enjoyed triumphant shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury Festival.

So it comes as no surprise that this late November stop in Manchester sold out months ahead. With myself having to purchase a last minute ticket from someone no longer able to attend, on the long walk down Oxford Road to the Academy I felt extremely lucky for what I was about to witness.

Opening with ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, whilst the sound at the Academy is by no means the best live venue, by the same token it’s by no means the worst. There’s certainly no mistaking Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone, and his dignified stage presence; equally commanding yet completely natural. It was not long before material from the aforementioned ‘High Violet’ appeared, with ‘Anyone’s Ghost’, ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and definitive ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ satisfy those new to the band, myself included.

Of course, for a band that has relied so long on the commitment of those long devoted, there was also plenty from the band’s much loved third and fourth albums ‘Alligator’ and ‘Boxer’ respectively. Whilst ‘Abel’ and ‘Lit Up’ shine for the former, it was ‘Slow Show’, ‘Start A War’, and set closer ‘Fake Empire’ from the latter that provided the set’s breathtaking moments.

Microphone problems during the encore of ‘Mr November’ did little to detract from its passion, before a superb stripped back version of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ brought the night to a close; for which all microphones were removed, encouraging the audience to join in for one final mass singalong. You had to be there.

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