A Top Headline Set
The National kick off proceedings in the O2 Arena playing a brief special guest slot at 3pm; despite the fact that most people are still arriving, a reasonable crowd gathers. The arena is about a quarter of the size of the one the band will headline later in the evening and it's a great chance to see them up close and get a taste of their rich, melodic sound. There's only time for four songs, all of which come from the band's recent album, 'Boxer', but the sound is great and it's the perfect start to the day for those in attendance.
The band's real slot later on in the day is witnessed by a far larger crowd, although strangely not as large as that for the previous act, Siouxsie. It seems like a little of a missed opportunity that the band also repeat the tunes played earlier in the day, where a few well-placed older tracks could have served either set well, but the audience lap up the intense rock happily. They start at full pelt with the emphatic, 'Start A War', singer Matt Berninger climbs the drum riser during the coda and begins to thump away furiously, building to a triumphant peak. Other tracks from 'Boxer' like 'Brainy' and 'Mistaken For Strangers' go down very well indeed, with 'Slow Show' rapturous as flashing lights dazzle the audience during the haunting outro. The crowd are eager to join in clapping along to a percussive jam at the beginning of 'Squalor Victoria' before an ecstatic strobe-lit crescendo with vocal cries of "Squalor Victoria" in harmony. It's all spine-tinglingley good stuff.
Elsewhere the rich brass of 'Ada' is beautifully uplifting, while the most popular songs from the band's older albums get a great response from the audience with 'Secret Meeting' early in the set and a frantic and euphoric 'Mr November' closing it. The band looking thoroughly at ease throughout the performance, crowding round the drums to jam to 'Baby, We'll Be Fine' and uninhibited by the large crowd, although even the security guards have to smile at times at the ecstatic sing a-longs breaking out. It's almost certain that most of the crowd walk away with a newfound spring in their step.