Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The National and The Best Gig Ever meme

The National ended their Irish run with an Iveagh Gardens’ show perfect for the times we’re in

The National's Matt Berninger

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 09:43


There’s a thing which happens over the course of a summer and it’s the curse of The Best Gig Ever. Week after week, it seems as if everyone you know in real life or follow on social media has been to The Best Gig Ever. Chalk it down to the weather perhaps, but there is never a bad gig anymore. Everything is super-awesome, every gig better than the last one, every gig hailed as something you just had to experience.

You wonder where the quality control has gone and how exactly are people measuring and gauging and sizing these things up if every gig is off the scale. Is the very fact that you’re seeing a band in a field, a band you may or may not have seen in that same field on a previous occasion, enough to qualify as The Best Gig Ever? Surely, we’re not talking about some sort of Men in Black thing here as you go into the venue? Are those security lads searching you for naggins and plastic bottle tops or really secretly wiping your memory?

All of which is a handy preamble for a band who are probably responsible for more Irish outbreaks of The Best Gig Ever since people used to admit to liking U2. As we know, The National and Ireland have had a long and mutually beneficial history. For as long as OTR has been going, we’ve been talking about the band – here’s our love letter to the band and their regal command of word of mouth after a night out at Dublin’s Olympia back in 2007 as we were just getting going – because we like ‘em and dig ‘em. That the readers like ‘em and dig ‘em too is a bonus.

The band have been on an Irish jaunt this last week with shows in Cork and Galway before the brace of evening stands at Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens. There’s the making of a decent large outdoor show if you combined the audience from all four shows, but that was not The National’s way on this occasion. Instead, thanks to timing and scheduling, they went for the long run and it paid off quite spectacularly.

The most striking aspect of Saturday’s show for this viewer was the dedication shown from offstage. Here’s an audience who’ve taken this band of Yanks and their shabby, dishevelled, subtle, elegant, downcast, bruised accounts of love and loss to their hearts with unusual aplomb. Every word from the canon is sung lustily. Every small win, every loss and setback in life’s unpredictable lottery, are marked. The camaraderie is only fierce.

Onstage, the grace notes come with audactious if typically understated flourishes. Matt Berninger’s voice is the one you swing along with because of its vulnerability and those moments when the restraint runs out, but it’s just one brushstroke on the canvas. Along the way, the individuals on the stage have become exceptional musicians, capable of creating this exceptional sound. In the gloaming of the night, with the evocative work of production designer Michael Brown (who was working with the band for the final time) casting a light throughout on the screen at the back of the stage, The National put on a show which was intense, moving and grandstanding in all the right ways and measures.

The Best Gig Ever? Most definitely not: such absolutes don’t really have a place in the real world. The Best Gig Ever last Saturday night in downtown Dublin in a lovely park a Montague Street length away from where The National previously played their Best Ever Dublin Gig? Yeah, we’ll take that.