This past weekend, The National played two dates at the Iveagh Gardens. Needless to say, they were fantastic. But there are two things that I need to confess prior to raving about just how good they were. First of all I had caught their gig at the 02 in November, and was left in no doubt that they were one of those bands that always struck a cord live. Then, just a week prior to this gig, I had gone to see Mistaken For Strangers, a film about the band, made by the lead singers’ brother Tom Berninger. (On another note… Go and see this film immediately if you haven’t!). As such, the timing was kind of ideal for going to see them play.
The Iveagh Gardens is unquestionably one of the loveliest outdoor venues in Dublin. There’s an inherent intimacy to it that you just can’t find in the vast expanses of Marlay Park and Kilmainham. For a band like The National that can sell out just about anywhere, it was refreshing to see them in such close quarters. Their music can be appreciated anywhere, but it came to life in this tiny park in the midst of a bustling Dublin town.
The band’s last album was released in 2013 so rather than this being a gig solely for the means of promotion, it was purely indulgent. This was reflected in the set list, which spanned nearly all of their albums. A personal favourite is the album Boxer, so when they opened with ‘Start A War,’ the excitement levels may have peaked.
Traversing the stage, belting out tunes, the guys played for an hour and a half, before leaving the crowd chanting along to ‘Fake Empire’. The encore served as the highlight of the gig, as is often the case. Not a soul in attendance could resist singing along to ‘Terrible Love,’ but it was ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ that closed the set and it was sheer perfection. Matt, as he is wont to do, jumped into the crowd and ensured that just about everyone (myself included) lost their minds. When you have Matt Berninger singing ‘Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry’ quite literally in your face, you can safely say that your life has been made.
Everything seemed to align, from the venue, to the atmosphere, (and thankfully the weather) to ensure that this was an unforgettable and rather breathtaking gig.
Follow Sorcha's festival adventures here: @SorchaTyndall