Album review: The National

The National - Boxer (Live in Brussels) 4AD

The National.

The National.

LIVE ALBUMS are very much a 1970s phenomenon, a chance to vicariously attend a concert by a band who would never play your town. They have also been among the classic 'contractual obligation' releases.

With few exceptions, the great live albums date from between 1970 and 1981. After that the quality of, and necessity for, them dips dramatically. Also, with bands now less likely to avoid your town, and with the advances in media and technology making live concerts more remotely accessible, is there any need for live albums? Yet the form stubbornly persists.

And there is demand for this in-concert rendition of Boxer, the album which brought The National to wide attention, and contains many of their finest songs, the ones you want them to play if you are in the audience looking at them. This was originally a limited edition, vinyl-only, release for Record Store Day and sold-out immediately. Public demand now sees it released on CD and digitally.

While the tracks here do not deviate hugely from the original studio renditions, their selling point is the energy and commitment the band bring to these performances, still as passionate about these songs as they were 11 years ago. It is a reminder that Boxer deserves to be regarded as a modern classic. Essential for long time and die hard fans then.

It also leaves in a smattering of banter with the audience (a welcome, but not always guaranteed, feature of a live album ). Enjoy Matt Berninger recalling his 'bear hug" from Michelle Obama and his long delayed realisation that Boxer, to which he wrote the lyrics, is "a sad album" - really Matt, that's only struck you now!?! Still, not a patch on Mick Jagger telling the audience on Get Your Ya-Yas Out, "I just bust a button on me trousers. You don't want my trousers to fall down now, do ya?"

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