CONCERT REVIEW : The National – OVO Hydro Glasgow, September 24th, 2023

There was much excitement in Glasgow, Scotland, as The National’s First Two Pages of Frankenstein tour was about to be performed at the OVO Hydro. In spite of the stormy mix of heavy rain and strong winds, the perfect night for being inside the venue had arrived. People in Glasgow came out early to watch The National, and they were also looking forward to the Nashville, Tennessee band, Soccer Mommy, who were the opening act.

The Nashville band Soccer Mommy onto the stage as the lights went down, and their performance enthralled the Glasgow crowd immediately. Leading off with “Crawling in My Skin,” Sophia Regina Allison’s superb vocals caught the attention of newcomers to the band’s live performances. Soccer Mommy’s performances of songs like “Circle the Drain,” “Shotgun,” and “Your Dog” were consistently impressive. They finished their brief but powerful set with an outstanding rendition of “Dagger” by Slowdive and then played “Yellow Is the Colour of Her Eyes” as their closing song. The Glasgow crowd, obviously excited to see the band, responded with thunderous ovation.

Audience in Glasgow were on the edge of their seats as Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf, and Bryan Devendorf of The National took the stage. After greeting the enthusiastic crowd, Matt and company began their hypnotic set with the fascinating “Once Upon a Poolside,” which immediately had the audience singing along with great enthusiasm. With powerful renditions of “Eucalyptus” and “Tropic Morning News,” the band kept the energy level high, and Matt captivated the audience from both sides of the stage. During an emotional performance of “Don’t Swallow the Cup,” Matt left the stage and walked into the Glasgow audience, surprising and delighting his adoring fans with his personal appearance. With Matt clearly enjoying themselves, there was little doubt that The National were poised to give a spectacular performance.

During their set, The National paid tribute to their own history by discussing the inspiration for several of their songs. Apartment Story, a track off their Boxer album, was singled out for its depiction of Matt’s time spent away from the rest of the band in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Humiliation, from the album Trouble Will Find Me, was dedicated to the excellent opening act, Soccer Mommy, and was a definite high point of the show. Their current album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, features the dramatic track Alien, which was the show-stopper. Matt’s amazing vocals and heartfelt performance won over the Glasgow crowd with each successive song.

The performance of “Mistaken for Strangers” by The National, fronted by Matt Berninger, was a highlight of the night because it was a tribute to Scott Hutchison and Frightened Rabbit. Frightened Rabbit’s 2019 support for The National was a touching gesture that solidified the friendship between the two bands. The Hutchison family created the charity Connect Festival 2022 in Scott’s honour and to raise awareness of mental health issues. The National performed a private gig there the year before. The Glasgow crowd’s roar of approval at the announcement of the dedication was a testament to the song’s powerful effect and their shared dedication to mental health advocacy.

The National, fronted by Matt Berninger, gave a stunning performance, capping it off with a flurry of rousing tunes. It all began with the intriguing “Smoke Detector,” and then they went right into the hypnotic “Light Years” and the rousing “England.” Matt walked out into the audience during the stressful performance of “Graceless,” making for a once-in-a-lifetime moment. With the powerful “About Today,” the band said their goodbyes just before playing the crowd-pleasing “Fake Empire” from their critically acclaimed album Boxer, leaving the fans howling for an encore. The fact that several crowd favourites hadn’t been played yet made everyone look forward to the band’s return with bated breath.

After a short break, The National came back out for an encore, and the Glasgow crowd was immediately captivated by the dramatic start of “Weird Goodbyes,” resulting in an audible uproar. At one point during “Mr. November,” lead vocalist Matt Berninger entered the audience, much to the pleasure of the crowd, before having to be helped back to the stage by the hardworking stage crew. With only a few of songs left, the audience soaked up every last moment, savouring the eerie beauty of “Terrible Love” and the pulsating energy of “Space Invader.” For the night’s closing song, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” the band toned down the production and everyone in the venue sang along a cappella. This moment united The National and their devoted fans, sending shivers down their spines and inspiring great enthusiasm in those who witnessed it.

The National, fronted by the ever-charismatic Matt Berninger, gave a great performance tonight. The band sounded great and kept the crowd interested the whole time. Those who were fortunate enough to attend the performance will never forget it. The National’s spellbinding performance on this tour will leave you in amazement and completely fulfilled, so don’t miss it if you get the chance to see them.

Review by Karen Edmond

Photographs by James Edmond 

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