[GIG REVIEW] Lord Huron @ The O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

The beautiful Shepherds Bush Empire is the ideal venue for Lord Huron to play in. Their songs suit the theatre space perfectly, but not in the overblown and hammy ‘performing-arts’ way that the word theatre often connotes. Rather it is indicative of the expressive depth and resonance that the best performances provide. Having never seen Lord Huron live before the emotion that is sustained across the hour and a half set is what strikes me most. From this point of view the live reference points I’m reminded most of are sets from Sufjan Stevens, The National and Arcade Fire, which is obviously a pretty good group to be a part of. In terms of the music, the last two are similarly good comparisons, albeit with more of an Americana/ Country inflection.

Without wishing to labour the analogy too much, the set construction, both in terms of track order and set design, are reminiscent of a play- the backdrop made up of pale, bare leafless trees accompanied by the cold sound effects between songs set the tone (an apt tone too as our days are much more quickly turning to nights in the UK…). Throughout this cohesive whole that is created, there are however highlights punctuating the linear story. The first of which comes with the one-two of ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ and ‘Lonesome Dreams’, the latter particularly showing Lord Huron’s ability to combine touching sentiment with classic songwriting.

‘The Ghost on the Shore’ is another nice moment- the dual harmonica parts blending into a sound that no longer sounds like the instrument at all, but something more eerie and piercing. Following on with this theme of atypical instrumentation is the haunting theremin line of the impressive ‘Way Out There’.  Sandwiched between these two is ‘The Birds Are Singing at Night’- the bird call sound effects surrounding this song are perhaps the only moment where the ‘show’ rather than ‘concert’ aspect tends towards jumping the shark somewhat, but this is only a very minor gripe.

The upbeat ‘Meet Me in the Woods’ is a welcome increase in tempo, continued with the most stand-alone song of the night in the bluesy ‘The World Ender’, complete with passionate red-lighting and the second biggest dance along of the night. The occurrence of the biggest is not far away however as the imperious ‘Fool For Love’ keeps people dancing and singing along to their hearts content. With their vocal chords warmed up, the crowd warmly sings main set closer, and perhaps Lord Huron’s most famous tune, ‘To The Ends of the Earth’ back to the 5 dark-suited men on stage. The communal feeling fostered by the shared questioning of “to the ends of the earth would you follow me?” is one of the warmest moments of the night.

The band don’t leave the stage for long before coming out to perform my personal highlight, the beautifully sad ‘The Night We Met’, the real hairs-on-the-back of your neck moment of the show in which frontman Ben Schneider does his best Matt Berninger impression. All that’s left then is the light-hearted pogoing and sing-a-long of ‘Time to Run’, which culminates with the group coalescing around the drum kit for the final extended flourish, the classic indicator of a gig’s ending. The audience can walk out into the cool London air satisfied that Lord Huron have delivered a fine set heavy on honest emotion, genuine heart-racing moments and foot shuffling indie-folk. 

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