Live review: The National, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, Tue 6 Aug
- Craig Angus
- 7 August 2019
Majestic show from Matt Berninger and co, featuring a guest spot from CHVRCHES Lauren Mayberry and a heartfelt dedication to Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison
'It's meant to be beautiful tomorrow,' Matt Behringer calls out to the Kelvingrove Bandstand crowd, a sea of ponchos huddled together like penguins in the cold night. It's cruel and he knows it. There are few bands who inspire devotion like the National though, so no amount of adverse weather conditions will take the Glasgow audience out of the moment when they're in full flight.
It takes a while for things to get this comfortable, though. On the first of two nights in Glasgow, the band lean heavily on eighth album, I Am Easy to Find, released back in May. It's a rewarding listen on record; guided by a cast of female vocalists it has a conversational tone, exploring relationship dynamics. It's cerebral more than anthemic. In this open-air environment, with formidable Scottish rain dousing one and all, the nuance of the mid-paced new material (particularly 'The Pull of You') is lost somewhat.
The set peaks at the halfway stage, with Lauren Mayberry – back in the country on Chvrches duty – joining for 'I Need My Girl', and staying for a moment that'll live long in the memory. A dedication to Scott Hutchison ('our friend, who we miss every day') is followed by a cover of Frightened Rabbit's 'My Backwards Walk'. It's a beautiful gesture in a city where Hutchison's work will always be revered.
Of the new material, 'Rylan', which closes the set and the gorgeous 'Light Years', are highlights, 'Fake Empire' is as majestic as always, and an airing of 'a drinking song' – 'All the Wine' from Alligator – is a welcome surprise. Berninger is one of the great frontmen of our time, and he's on magnificent form tonight, spending what feels like the entire second half of the show among the audience (whoever's responsible for looking after his mic deserves a pay rise), using 'Graceless' to really stretch his legs to the venue's fringes and borrowing a poncho for 'The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness'. During Boxer favourite 'Brainy', he holds up a fan-made sign; 'Think I'd better follow you around'. Come hell or high water we will.