The National step out of the shadows to rock Eden Sessions

CHAOS Radio - Eden Sessions The National
Picture: Claudia Montano; Lead vocalist Matt Berninger of The National, during Tuesday evening's Eden Session

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“We have heard so many things about this place over the years. It’s really wonderful to come and play here so thank you for that.”

It’s no secret that the critically acclaimed Brooklyn-born five piece – comprised of vocalist Matt Berninger alongside two sets of brothers – twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf – may have been one of the less fancied names on the Sessions.

A vast and varied list of artists that members of the band have collaborated with ranges from Taylor Swift to Michael Stipe, and Ed Sheeran to Falmouth University alumni Ben Howard, a former Eden Session headliner himself. 

It was on a breezy night then, set deep within the iconic Biomes, that The National took to the stage and took over in their own indomitable style, described beautifully by The Guardian critic Kitty Empire as ‘literate rock’.

This Is The Kit, who joined The National on The Other Stage at Glastonbury just days earlier, opened the evening with a special guest slot punctuated by the almost hypnotic folk-rock sound of delightful lead singer Kate Stables. 

Then came the headliners, strutting out fashionably late – and rather ironically – to the sounds of Slippery People by Talking Heads, with Berninger likening playing at The Eden Project to being in a science fiction film before launching into ‘Runaway’.

The band, spread out across the stage, stopped to bask in enthusiastic applause from the crowd during their anthemic and sweeping opening number.

‘Throw your arms in the air tonight,’ they sang, enjoying another moment to take in their surroundings – lightyears away from their Brooklyn base – before a rousing rendition of ‘Eucalyptus’, that featured a nod to their home across the Atlantic in the line ‘What if we moved back to New York…’.

The crowd pointed their fingers back with passion as Berninger repeated the hook of its chorus, ‘you should take it…’.

As the audience warmed up in the cool conditions, so did the band who began to pick up the rhythm and blues with the rather fitting ‘Tropic Morning News’, a track that had their fans clapping in unison and bobbing along to the beat.

The interaction between those on stage and those trying so desperately to lock hands and eyes with their heroes continued. “Anybody here from Ohio,” asked Berninger, before taking a couple of steps back when an arm went up alongside a yell of ‘yeeeeessssssssss’.

“What,” he laughed, “nobody ever says yes. Well, this song’s for you.”

That was ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, followed by ‘Lemonworld’, described as musically and mathematically difficult by the band. A quite glorious back and forth followed, ending with Berninger yelling ‘you always tell ME off for talking too much’ before telling the crowd ‘okay, we are going to mess this one up too, it’s called ‘The Geese of Beverley Road’.

They were quite open in their alternative style, using their first visit to Cornwall to mix up their set and play some different tracks, deviating from their well-received performance at Glastonbury but losing none of their swagger. 

It was rather akin to watching fireworks in the daytime, as the crowd swayed against The Eden Project’s unique backdrop of colour and sound, with the re-entry of Stables for ‘I am Easy to Find’ and ‘Rylan’ a real goosebumps up the arm moment.

Set back from the adoring fans, singing along to each word with unwavering passion, were some in attendance who, like this reporter, were left thinking ‘where have these guys been all my life’?

CHAOS Radio journalist Tom Howe chats to some of the audience at Tuesday’s Eden Session, headlined by The National
Picture: Claudia Montano

Everyone’s new favourite band returned after a ground rumbling call for an encore, which began with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ in honour of drummer Bryan Devendorf, which resulted in cake being shared with the crowd – not the worst move when making new friends.

At the start of the evening, CHAOS Radio journalist Tom Howe was in and amongst it all, chatting to some excited audience members, including some long-term fans of The National and others that had connected with them far more recently. 

“I’m a recent National fan,” said Hugh from Dartmouth. “As soon as I saw their name, I listened to them, liked them and booked it. I watched them at Glastonbury, on The Other Stage on Sunday, it was fantastic.”

Joe, from Plymouth, added: “For me, I really like the lead singer. He is a really interesting songwriter and has got this amazing kind of textured voice, like not a very trained voice.”

This was the fifth act in an impressive Eden Sessions line-up for 2024 that includes:

• Wednesday July 3, Rick Astley plus special guests The Lightning Seeds

• Friday July 5, Tom Grennan

• Saturday July 13, JLS plus special guest Tinchy Stryder

To find out more and book the last remaining tickets, visit