"We've been doing festivals over the summer and playing the greatest hits," the Brooklynite rockers The National pointed out, on the first date of their UK tour. "So now we're gonna play the obscure songs." It made little difference, because their most devoted followers know all of them anyway. The setting wasn't ideal – a concert hall might have been better than a mini-arena – but this was a beautiful show, rich in lyrical poignancy and tenderly epic music.
There were many stand-out moments: the two-part horn section sighing along in apology with "Baby, We'll Be Fine"; a lighting effect over the stage which looked like burning red rain, during "Bloodbuzz Ohio"; the romance welling up in the "I dreamed about you / before I saw you" line from "Slow Show".
The singer, Matt Berninger, joked that "the only way to make any money in this business is power ballads" after "Lucky You", and got so carried away during "Mr November" that he climbed next toa speaker, dislodged a foam roof tile and contemplated disappearing into the ceiling. "By the way," he said, "there's a dead body up there."
It was a night for such silliness, for satisfied, happy smiles in the crowd and on the faces of the band as they deservedly hauled themselves ever further out of obscurity.