The National at All Points East: No gimmicks as band continue their ascent to the top

The National frontman Matt Berninger on stage at All Points East in Victoria Park on Saturday. Pictu

The National frontman Matt Berninger on stage at All Points East in Victoria Park on Saturday. Picture: Hollie Shepherd - Credit: Archant

In what was their biggest headline show in the UK yet, The National once again proved they are the real deal.

Arriving on stage following a screening of their own documentary Mistaken For Strangers, the band launched straight into Nobody Else Will Be There, the brooding opener from last year’s Sleep Well Beast.

It was followed by the record’s lead single, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, the sing-a-long chorus of which woke the crowd from its trance.

What ensured was a classy, career-spanning set that dipped and weaved between slow numbers and heavy hitters with no gimmicks or distractions in sight.

Rousing fan favourites Bloodbuzz Ohio and Fake Empire received the biggest reaction, while frontman Matt Berninger made his usual burst into the crowd during old highlight Mr. November.

Berninger’s ability to switch from the understated, captivating crooner, into a screaming stage-diver without it appearing forced or fake is key to the band’s slow, but unstoppable, rise to the top of the festival bills.

One moment he is holding the attention of 20,000 people on the sparse, hushed numbers such as I Need My Girl, Slow Show and Carin at the Liquor Store, the next he is taking selfies while being groped by adorning fans.

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The introduction of Adam Granduciel – hot off his own headline set over on the North Stage with The War On Drugs – for the final three songs drew a reaction not just from the crowd, but also Berninger himself.

“That’s f*****g awesome,” he said as he walked onto the stage.

Granduciel joined them for Terrible Love and then About Today, dedicated to late Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.

Hutchison, who died last month, had close ties with the band. Not only was he a vocal National fan, his band toured with them and their final album Painting of a Panic Attack was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner.

The emotion of the moment appeared to get the better of Berninger, who was unable even to start the signature sing-a-long finale of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks and instead left it solely to Dessner’s acoustic guitar and the crowd – who duly obliged.

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