Music review: The National, The Roundhouse, London
Thursday 27 June 2013
"I’m going through an awkward stage," Matt Berninger pleads on standout new track “Demons”, in that battered, beautiful baritone voice of his.
The frontman doesn’t look awkward. In fact, he, like his Brooklyn-based band, appear confidently on top of their game. After a decade of being the best-kept secret in music, the quintet, composed of Berninger and two sets of brothers, are garnering front covers, mainstream esteem and attracting the likes of Clive Owen in the audience.
It’s about time and their latest masterpiece, Trouble Will Find Me, is given a generous airing tonight with nine tracks. It means no room for the gorgeous “Runaway” (which graced recent zombie movie Warm Bodies) from 2010’s High Violet or the exquisitely twisted “Karen” from 2005's Alligator. They never seem to play it. Too raw?
The 42-year-old singer is a cerebral, literary lyricist (he has the sensibilities of a novelist) who grips the crowd (they barely move and hardly a soul makes a dart for the bar) with his deeply personal lyrics. The supremely anxious "Afraid of Everyone", a track for misfits and the damaged, leaves the crowd rapt, rooted to the spot.
It’s music to squeeze your eyes shut, waft airily around like a Terrence Malick heroine and occasionally thrust out a wild salute to. Anthemic, deranged and, oddly uplifting. They start off with the accusational (there’s a fair deal of teenage angst about The National) new track “I Should Live in Salt” (“Don’t make me read your mind/ You should know me better than that”) and the mordant “Don’t Swallow the Cap” (“I have only two emotions/ Careful fear and dead devotion”). The sweeping, cinematic tracks are followed up by the perfectly lovely "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and “Secret Meeting”.
Does Berninger leap into the audience tonight, clutching a bottle of red plonk. Of course he does. The serial stage diver flings himself into the faithful during the heady "Mr November", his favourite song for leaping.
They finish with a five-song encore that includes the distorted loveliness of “Terrible Love” with those agonised, spine-tingling yelps of “It takes an ocean not to break”. It’s a heartbreak song redolent of The Psychedelic Furs, plus a swathe of British indie-rock bands – The Blue Nile, Echo and the Bunnymen and, particularly, Tindersticks. They're Anglophiles, essentially.
Their final song, "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, is performed unamplified and while the crowd take over singing duties, Berninger accidentally stumbles as they chant "I'll explain everything to the geeks". Tonight's only awkward moment. Sensational.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Watch a man race the Circle line and win
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'
Star Trek 3 to begin shooting within six months
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Robin Thicke’s hit 'Blurred Lines' lands him in court - and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly