The National – Saturday November 27th @ Manchester AcademyPosted: 03/12/2010
I’m quite prepared to dislike The National this evening. Manchester Academy’s capacious and characterless space is thronging with bearded 20-somethings, all moping around like middle-aged emo kids. The Academy’s a featureless venue that’s currently playing host to a painfully featureless support act. Talking throughout gigs is infuriating at the best of times. Right now, though, it’s quite justifiable.
Space is getting scarce. Men all around are clapping, giddy with excitement. Many of these men clamber stage-ward. I hear one of them confer to his friend as he walks past, “I hope Matt looks at me!” before shrieking off, reeling into the melee.
The National walk through a purple haze of light to fervent applause. They open with ‘Mistaken for Strangers’. It’s agreeable but, like a few they play tonight, lacks the depth that on record takes the band from the doldrums, to the euphoric heights that have many a grown man clunking like a love-starved schoolgirl. If there’s a Jonas Brothers for this demographic, it’s The National.
Occasionally they hit their stride. ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ is tender and sobering and near perfect. While their songs are engaging enough to hold the attention of a Saturday crowd, many of whom are now itching to drown their sorrow at the pub, it isn’t until ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ that things start to take off.
I admit, I’m knocked back. I wasn’t prepared for such a level of proficiency from a live act, especially here – it can so easily be a disappointment. Not tonight. Great sound, great songs. On ‘Conversation 16’ they slightly prolong the pause before the toms and it sends a shiver down my spine and I go a little mawkish. This must be how Bieber fans feel. Only a band like The National could take a lyric as ridiculous as, “I was afraid I’d eat you brains” and furnish it with such blissful profundity. It’s quite poignant, and the reason why The National are slowly making their way into the CD collections of people across the land.
Between songs, and despite the lugubrious nature of their back catalogue, the band are in good spirits and regale a baying crowd with stories about Aaron on the tourbus.
‘Sorrow’ and ‘London’ garner awe. There’s an encore and the band finish with a beautiful a capella of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. They’ve tried to hush the audience; the audience have tried to hush the audience, but to no avail. There’s nearly a fight as one man chastises another for breathing too loud.
As I leave, I spot the gaggle of man-fans crowding around the tour bus. More fights are breaking out. “I want Matt to sign my tits!” says one. “I’ve got a line from ‘Start a War’ tattooed on my balls!” says another.