Lake Huron, one of the US’s five Great Lakes, plays a larger part in Ben Schneider’s life than simply being the place where he started his recording career. Bordering Ontario, Canada, and expanding from the easterly portion of Lake Michigan, Schneider’s music takes on the themes of America’s vast landscape.
A one man band, with a five-piece travelling ensemble, tonight’s sold-out show at the Old Blue Last is Lord Huron’s first visit to these shores and is followed by another sold out show at The Lexington. Not a bad welcome. It reflects the glowing reviews of ‘Lonesome Dreams’, Lord Huron’s first full length album, an all-American affair which is more than a nod to the nation’s great folk story-tellers.
As support Champs close to the warm applause from the bearded folk in woolly hats that make up much of tonight’s crowd, Lord Huron make their way politely through to the stage with an array of percussion, apologising profusely to anyone in their way. A well-mannered bunch, the band say their thank yous before launching into album opener, ‘Ends Of The Earth’, full of multi-layered harmonies and interwoven with the common themes of travel and romance.
‘The Problem With Your Daughter’, however, comes straight from the leftfield and is a big step away from the mood and tempo of other songs from the album. An afro-pop song with big percussion and lighter guitars draws an obvious comparison to Paul Simon and suggests that Schneider’s influences aren’t limited to the American wilderness. The calypso number which has the majority of the audience in-arms dancing didn’t make it onto the album, which - despite clearly deviating from the narrative of escape and discovery - suggests that they may have played it safe.
“Hey, let’s slow it down again,” Schneider says brandishing a harmonica for ‘The Ghost On The Shore’, replacing the electric for his acoustic guitar. There is certainly no disappointment displayed from the crowd though. Throughout the song Schneider steps back from the microphone to sing some of the lines and there is honesty in his delivery which leaves us with a warm, fuzzy feeling. The other surprise of the night is their rendition of The Kinks’ early classic, ‘Strangers’ complete with sliding guitars and a draping bassline, playing homage to their first visit to the capital. It is a refreshing interpretation and confirms their dynamism as live performers.
Bringing the set to a near-close is ‘Time To Run’ which epitomises everything that is great with the band and the album. The smiles carried by every member are infectious and the crowd belt out the call and response from the chorus with gusto. It’s hard to believe the album was released a mere two weeks ago.
Lord Huron are likeable, modest, and above all great performers. Their album won’t break musical barriers but the surprises in their performance do offer something different to your run-of-the-mill acoustic folk performance. Once more, the content and delivery of their music has the ability to transport the listener to a daydream, inspire and escape day-to-day realities. This should be celebrated.
Words by Andrew Darby