The National live at Brighton Centre - Review

The National’s escape from the indie-rock ghetto has been built on big tunes that comfortably fill large venues and engender more audience mobile phone recordings than a mid-size royal wedding.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 10:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 11:26 pm
The National by Graham MacIndoe

On Saturday (December 9) the durable Brooklyn-based, Ohio-raised band filled out the Brighton Centre and have the hefty sound that can shift thousands of stadium seats or festival tickets.

More than ever that sound is led by the fearsome familial rhythm section of Devendorf brothers, which on-stage is further beefed up by that most wonderful of live additions – a second drummer.

In a show dominated by selections from their most recent album, I am Easy to Find, with a few exceptions, the tracks were built on those insistent, driving rhythms.

The new songs stood up well, often calling on the supporting voices of Eve Owens and Kate Stables from This is the Kit. Testament to the band’s musical evolution, tracks such as ‘You Had Your Soul With You’, and ‘Where is Her Head’, were interesting and less anthemic than some of the more epic slices of their back catalogue.

But that’s not to say the faithful were left short of widescreen numbers, which were flanked by even bigger video screens above the stage.

‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ was as big and heroic as you’d want, this side of 80s stadium rock.

Other highlights included melancholic live favourite ‘Fake Empire’, which continues to put metaphorical bluebirds on collective shoulders, and a boisterous cover of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’.

Singer Matt Berninger is emotional and engaging, and still loves to roam, at length, among the already pumped audience. Even without the singer’s frequent forays into the crowd, the band’s connection with their fans is palpable. All the more so after a bit of pre-election rabble rousing and an acoustic sing-along to end a triumphant return to Brighton.