- 20 Jun 18
With the irreverent swagger of your coolest drunk uncle at the end of a very wet wedding, Matt Berninger - gentleman frontman of Ohio indie-rock darlings, The National - introduces himself to the audience by shaking his posterior directly into a camera live-streaming across the massive stage backdrop. This is supposed to be an evening of serious, Grammy Award winning, emotionally earnest rock, right?
It’s night one of the band’s very own summer festival, deep in the heart of Dublin’s most affluent suburb. And, having already witnessed spine-tingling performances from John Grant and our own Lisa Hannigan, Berninger and the brothers Dessner and Devendorf have every right to treat tonight like a celebration. This tour is something of a victory lap after all. 2017’s Sleep Well Beast has been their most successful release to date, bagging them the afore-mentioned Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, and they’ve been on a whirlwind world tour ever since. Tonight, they’re clearly having a blast being back on an Irish stage.
They open with the slow burn of ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ and ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’. Ms. Hannigan returns to the stage to provide some hauntingly beautiful backing vocals and the tasteful electronic flourishes that colour Sleep Well Beast’s production ensure that these new songs stretch off majestically into the early evening sky. Never one to wallow in self-seriousness, Berninger holds his cup of wine skywards and interjects: “I’m not going to make any leprechaun jokes, but check it out! That’s the worst rainbow I’ve ever seen!”
From here we’re treated to a greatest hits set that seems to be growing exponentially with every new release the band put out. Fan favourites ‘Swallow The Cap’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ are sung back by a crowd in full voice, and new songs like the rocking ‘The Day I Die’ are greeted like old friends. ‘Conversation 16’ elicits the most gleefully weird sing-along moment of the night as the crowd join Berninger in a chorus of “I was afraid I’d eat your brains,” and the singer’s now compulsory adventure out into the stands and through the crowd during ‘Mr November’ and 'Terrible Love' is as thrilling as ever.
By the time the stadium lights come on to light our way home, it’s clear that the band have done all they needed to do, and they relinquish the singing duties on ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ to an audience all too willing to pick up the gauntlet and run with it. It’s a magical end to the first day of their own festival, and both band and audience leave more than satisfied. It would be just like The National to go and top it for the second night though! Those with tickets for night two are in for something special.