The National in Birmingham


What a joy – The National in Birmingham. OK the Academy in Brum is not my favourite venue (and this time especially sticky underfoot) but who cares when they put on such a good show. I still find it hard to know how a band keeps up the energy when they are in the middle of what seems an interminable list of festival slots and filler gigs like this one – a few days earlier they had been at Glastonbury.

Opening for them was Caroline Martin with a collection of slightly morose looking chaps. Caroline hails from Bristol and was unknown to me. Her very lyrical and fragile songs seemed an unusual choice as support. However it became a little clearer later in the show when Matt Berninger announced that in his opinion Ms Martin had written the best love soing of the last six years or so, Without Permission, a track on the Virginia EP and part of the encore delivered alongside Ms Martin. To be fair this is a fine song and perhaps Ms Martin might be better in a more intimate and conducive environment.

Any hoo the National set was strong and joyful, rather wonderfully expanded with a small horn section that gave some welcome album-like textures. All the usual tracks were there (save About Today unfortunately, and do they ever play Thirsty?) But great to hear The Geese of Beverley Hills.

I was there with my lad as ever and this time managed to drag along my good chum Martin who, it transpires, had last been to a gig 15 years ago to see local Brum band Pop Will Eat Itself (I think that was it… mmm) – he must come out more …

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