Live Reviews

The National Live

The Devastations

Sharing the same Beggars Banquet label as The National, The Devastations are not surprisingly a great introduction to the evening. With songs like “Sex and Mayhem” the 4 piece have an instrumental/melodic feel, with a distinct western lead. With the singer slapping his bass, old-school finger style, they hold your attention enough to fill the room within seconds.The National were originally set to play at Scala. After selling out the first venue, they decided to move the show to Koko, and still managed a Sell Out show! Their awkwardly intimate live performances have spread far and wide. From the release of their self titled album in 2001, they have captured a cult following, leaving behind memories of conventional good jobs. Their 1st album was released before ever playing live. A high standard to follow, but they have cultivated their sound over a further 2 albums. Their sound is big, honest and raw!

For the 5 friends from Ohio, it is all about the music. Dressed down in neatly collared shirts, and armed with storytelling song writing they barely move. They stay rooted in fixated dedication to squeezing every note out of their instruments. The conversational lyrics spring from the close bond of a mix of two pairs of brothers -the twins on guitars: Aaron and Bryce, and then Scott (guitar; bass) and Bryan (drums).

Matt, the singer, sings upwards as if to throw every ounce of sound from his lungs, as he sings “Looking for Astronauts“. The stillness of the crowd breaks, every last inch of Koko is crammed. There is no break or talking between songs except for quick swigs of water. Their objective is not to get people dancing, or to impress the masses, but simply to do what they love, and touch people’s hearts in the process.

Matt holds the mic so tightly you almost wait for his hands to bleed. Tensing all the veins in his arms he screams “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November, I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over” from the anthem of the night “Mr November“. He bizarrly hugs his ear to keep check on his own voice, making him look as vulnerable and open as his lyrics. From the pinnacle point in the set, he reaches for a well deserved smoke break…and from that point chain smokes. With mic in one hand, and contantly lit fags in the other he doesn’t miss a note, even as he exhales some of the lyrics. Fitting for his track “Lit up“.

They exude a polite coyness, each stopping to thank the audience for “…their amazing experience”. Matt mumbles a thank you with the only recognisable words being “…we would have half an hour of thanks to give…” He may not be able to talk, but he can certainly sing. With lyrics stretching from “Girl we better get a drink in you before you start to bore us”, to “Just say something perfect, something I can steal” to “Karen, put me in a chair, fuck me and make me a drink” they cover a vast array of emotions, and sounds across all their albums.

They have been compared to the likes of Nick Cave and Wilco. They supported The Editors the night before at Brixton Academy, so they are clearly on the rise and rise. It is no wonder they crack open their vintage champagne immediately after their show! It is the 1st time they have ever performed an encore. You can see they are overwhelmed with the aggressively un-moving, loud stomping audience. They come back for a few more tracks from their latest successful album Aligator, and then head off to celebrate.

Niki Kova’cs