The National triumph with biggest UK headline show to date at All Points East Presents
All Points East presents The National for their biggest headline show in the UK to date. The beautifully sunny day promises the American rock band a lot of attendees, especially because of their special guests The War on Drugs and Future Islands – amongst others.
For this weekend of APE’s concerts, only two main stages are in operation, and This Is the Kit take to the smaller one (North Stage) as the opening act of the day. Kate Stables and her quintet are serene yet expressive but suffer from a languid throng of festival goers who are more preoccupied with getting lunch, drinks and general chit-chat whilst they wait around for higher profile musicians.
Subsequently, over at the East Stage, Amber Run are providing the mid-afternoon’s entertainment. Frontman Joe Keogh has plenty of passion in his voice as he belts out the signature hits including I Found and Fickle Game. He’s infectiously excitable, providing the stimulus that the afternoon needs.
A few lesser-known artists get the chance to expand their audience on the Firestone, a tiny stage in the middle. Indie rockers To Kill a King are one such example. The suave Ralph Pelleymounter has an imposing voice, as evidenced by his delivery of No More Love Songs and The Good Old Days from their last album The Spiritual Dark Age, which should upgrade the group to the bigger stages for next year’s edition of the East London festival.
Public Service Broadcasting are, predictably, sharply dressed and draw the largest crowd of the day yet. The eclectic instrumentalism of Go is accompanied by seamlessly edited footage of various historical footage intercut with the band’s live performance, complete with a grainy black-and-white filter. Gagarin is a highlight not only of the trio’s set but of the event at large – the funky tune is supported by its amusing music video, which features a pair of dancing astronauts, then suddenly a man in an astronaut suit appears on stage and gets the fans going.
Cat Power tells Victoria Park “I bloody love ya” in her best attempt at an English accent (it’s very Welsh) after she’s given a rapturous response to her rendition of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven and euphonious original pieces Song to Bobby and Manhattan. The high levels of enthusiasm are maintained for Warpaint who have a watertight setlist of their major tunes. Each song, from Drive to So Good showcases that they possess the all-important ability to keep audiences dancing with no timeouts.
When it’s time for The War on Drugs, the congregation cheers for the heartland rock act in a manner expected for the headliner. The Philadelphian musicians have won a fanbase through stunning melodies and sublime songwriting and reinforce these qualities through their live performance – Adam Granduciel is reminiscent of Bob Dylan in his prime, harmonica and all. Watching him sing the gems Eyes to the Wind and Pain and kill the guitar solos is captivating. Of course, it’s the other band members that complement Granduciel’s vocals and strums, together forming compositions that won them a Grammy award earlier this year and an even greater victory tonight – London’s heart. Very special guests indeed.
Preceding The National’s arrival to the main stage is a screening of their quirky documentary film Mistaken for Strangers. We then see a feed of the trailer which the five-piece emerges from and kick things off with the soothing Nobody Else Will Be There. It’s followed by The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, where crowd participation really comes into its own. An array of lights on the stage changes colours with each song and create inexplicable but dazzling formations.
Multi-tasking band member Aaron Dessner asks if anyone from Ohio is there tonight as a prelude to Bloodbuzz Ohio. It’s hard to tell, and maybe there are some individuals present from the band’s home state, but what’s clear is that everyone is spiritually from Ohio tonight as they all join in to croon the acclaimed record. Fake Empire is a favourite, primarily because of when trumpeter Kyle Resnick whips the crowd into a frenzy as the song rises to a crescendo. Berninger rewards the most dedicated fans, those who sacrificed seeing a few other acts by camping at the front row to see their favourite group up close, by jumping off stage for Mr November and taking selfies with many of them.
The sombre About Today is performed once dusk has settled and the stars are clear, giving it extra sentimental value. The night ends with Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, with one guitar and the crowd singing. This special, intimate moment is emotionally overwhelming and the perfect closer to a triumphant event. The National’s biggest headline show to date may well be their best yet too.
Photo: Olivier Bourgi
All Points East are running events at Victoria Park from 25th May until 3rd June 2018. For further information and future events visit All Points East Festival’s website here.