Haven KBH 2017: The National celebrate Copenhagen with a wonderful closing set (Review)

The National

Haven KBH Festival 2017
Copenhagen, Denmark

Matt Berninger between songs, (c)Philip Giouras @ The Perfect Tempo

Matt Berninger between songs, (c)Philip Giouras @ The Perfect Tempo


The National celebrated a fantastic first Haven Festival with a terrific set which showcased their new album as well collaborations with many of the festival acts in a high energy, highly emotional finale to this years event.

The Dessner brothers, specifically Aaron have appeared throughout Haven over the course of the weekend, that’s mainly down to one of the festivals central themes being collaboration and with their bands headline set closing out the weekend, they decided to take it one step further with a set that featured many of the acts which played the festival helping play old favourites and a selection of fantastic new material from their upcoming album.

A rampant rain shower absolutely soaked the waiting crowd for Haven Festival’s final act but what stood before The National was a very wet but very excited crowd, and they were duly rewarded. I last saw The National only a couple months ago as they played Glastonbury, it was an enjoyable set but the high amount of new material and lack of crowd behind them mean’t it wasn’t a triumphant set by any means, so you could say I was hesitant coming into their headline performance, by 3 songs in, I was fully engaged and loving every moment.

‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ were strong starting songs which had everyone singing along. Matt really seems to bring so much more emotion to each track and their subsequent choruses live, The National certainly have a hardcore following and that was certainly the case in Copenhagen as they joined in with each song, danish strangers arm in arm singing about swarms of bee’s is definitely something to be witnessed.

They stated early on they would be playing a lot of new material from upcoming album ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ which was certainly true as they brought out lots of new tracks, the minute they said it there was an audible sigh from the crowd, it was a disappointing reaction but they soon changed their mind as each new song won them over again and again, their set has made the new album leap up my highest anticipated records list considerably, September can’t come soon enough.

Of the new tracks the title track was easily the one that stood out the most during the early run, it’s a fairly heavy track with an absolutely delightful guitar hook, I mean seriously, it’s as if it’s been designed to root itself in your mind, it’s strong work from Aaron and Bryce. Afterwards it was time for the first guest of the evening, the wonderful Justin Vernon who had just previously wowed crowds with his group Bon Iver came out to thunderous applause, he provided backing vocals on two new tracks, ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ was utterly gripping and I doubt the studio version will match up to it, especially if it doesn’t have Justin’s heavenly falsetto for backing vocals. ‘Guilty Party’ was more focused on Matt, it’s an equally great track, it’s instrumental sections are truly stunning, once more the song is elevated by Justin’s presence, an inspired choice for the two tracks.

This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables is present for the next track, another new one titled ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’ unfortunately this one doesn’t manage to stick so prevalently in my mind and does feel like it was maybe one new song in a row too many, Kate however like her earlier appearance was fantastic.   The National decided to throw it back a bit with a 2007’s ‘Apartment Story’ which makes a nice appearance before they bring out upcoming star Kwamie Liv for a truly beautiful rendition of their iconic ‘I Need My Girl’ Kwamie makes the now four year old trackfeel fresh again with her contribution to the stunning duet.

‘Turtleneck’ is possibly the heaviest song The National have ever done even more so than ‘November’ it saw Matt give 110% of his energy to the track, bouncing around the stage screaming along to the strobe lights, it was an eerie and violent performance, it’s definitely bound to be a massive track on the album. this led into possibly my favourite National song which is the emotional and moving tribute to my own home country of ‘England’, there’s definitely something quite special hearing it whilst abroad in another country, I can’t quite put my finger on it but they really bring another depth to the song live, the wonderful instrumentation really hits you.

Everyone one in the crowd is singing along to ‘Fake Empire’ as it brings a close to a fantastic 90 minutes of live music, it has everyone in the crowd arm in arm, it’s a lovely moment that has everyone cheering for more, thankfully what followed was an incredible encore. Aaron started things off with an emotional speech, thanking everyone who’s helped make Haven such a successful weekend before a touching and tearful mention to his now sadly gone mother in law. The song dedicated to her is ‘Carin At The Liqour Store’, it’s a new song and it completely blew me away, a combination of powerful lyrics and I think The Nationals’ finest instrumentation and piano melody yet, It nearly has me in tears, for an act I wasn’t highly anticipating or had an emotional connection with prior to the set, that is truly an impressive feat. 

What followed next can only be described as madness, it was hilarious, stupid and brilliant all at once, Ragnar Kjartansson came onto the stage (his highly successful exhibit/bar hidden away at the festival had been overcrowded all weekend) he treated the crowd to a rendition of classic Danish no.1 pop song ‘De smukke unge mennesker’ which had all the danish speakers singing along and the rest of us laughing with him, it was silly but an enjoyable tribute to the danish crowd. A hilarious highlight had to be Matt balancing a pint on Ragnar’s head as continued to sing, all credit to him it stayed on.

Matt & Ragnar covering Danish pop song ‘De smukke unge mennesker' (c) Philip Giouras @ The Perfect Tempo

Matt & Ragnar covering Danish pop song ‘De smukke unge mennesker' (c) Philip Giouras @ The Perfect Tempo

It was back to business for the final two tracks, Mr. November has everyone jumping frantically along to it’s wild closing minutes as Matt screams the emphatic chorus, it turns Haven into a crazy celebration before a ‘Terrible Love’ has everyone once again united in arm and song, ‘It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders’ echoes throughout the industrial site and long into the night, a fantastic and emotional close.

I came into The National’s set a little hesitant that’s for sure, I will freely admit I found their Glastonbury set disappointing and frankly un-engaging, so that makes it even more impressive that they didn’t just win me over but they blew me away, over the course of an hour and 45 minutes they managed to captivate me and really brought out a variety of feelings. 

As The National finished I was now certain of three things, This year’s Haven has been a tremendous success, I absolutely can’t wait for the new album and it’s evidently fantastic material, oh and finally when can I see them again?

P.S. check out the sensational new track 'Carin at the Liquor Store' as well as the tracklist below.



  1. Don't Swallow the Cap

  2. Day I Die (NEW)

  3. Bloodbuzz Ohio

  4. Walk It Back (NEW)

  5. Afraid of Everyone

  6. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness (NEW)

  7. Nobody Else Will Be There (with Justin Vernon) (NEW)

  8. Guilty Party (with Justin Vernon) (NEW)

  9. I'll Still Destroy You (with This Is the Kit) (NEW)

  10. Apartment Story

  11. I Need My Girl (with Kwamie Liv)

  12. This Is the Last Time

  13. Turtleneck (NEW)

  14. England

  15. Fake Empire


  16. Carin at the Liquor Store (dedicated to Aaron’s late Grandmother) (NEW)

  17. De smukke unge mennesker (Kim Larsen cover) (with Ragnar Kjartansson)

  18. Mr. November

  19. Terrible Love