It is now six years since Lanterns on the Lake were in York courtesy of the rather wonderful Please Please You promotions. Mid-way through this evening’s exquisite show, the band’s vocalist Hazel Wilde amusingly recalls the experience as them having played in a basement – it was, in fact, in The Basement – along with her memories of subsequently performing at the now defunct The Duchess when, in her haste to get to the gig on time, she stumbled out of a local hostelry and somehow managed to trip over a dog.
A lot has happened to Lanterns on the Lake since that initial appearance in the city. Later in 2010 the Newcastle-upon-Tyne outfit signed to Simon Raymonde’s renowned independent record label, Bella Union, with whom they have now released four very impressive albums. They have also gone through a number of personnel changes, though the nucleus of the original band – Wilde, alongside guitarist Paul Gregory and drummer and keyboard player Oliver Ketteringham – still remains firmly intact. And, perhaps more significantly, somewhere along the way Lanterns on the Lake shed their more winsome indie-folk skin for something that is altogether more powerful and robust, a coherent sound that undoubtedly places them in the very vanguard of critical, contemporary British music.
Lanterns on the Lake are in York this evening as part of a 10 date UK tour that culminates on Saturday night at a sold out, homecoming show in the intimate surroundings of the Mining Institute in Newcastle. The tour coincides with the release last week of their fourth album, an orchestral live recording with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at the Sage Gateshead back in February.
As with Live With Royal Northern Sinfonia, tonight’s set is built primarily around its predecessor, Beings. The band’s third studio album, Beings was released in November of last year to universal critical acclaim and is the record that shifted the quintet – the band’s three original members are now augmented by Bob Allen on bass guitar and violinist Angela Chan – from the mostly considered into the utterly compelling.
They open rather fittingly with the first track from Beings, ‘Of Dust And Matter’. The song’s great brooding presence belies a lot of levity that rests at the band’s heart, yet equally reflects the darkness and light that co-exist within the quintessential Lanterns on the Lake sound. For the next 90 minutes, the band takes us on a mesmeric trip that encompasses large swathes of Beings but also finds time to stop off at earlier points in their career.
We may not get the full orchestral impact of the Live With Royal Northern Sinfonia recording tonight, but this performance is no less dramatic. ‘A Kingdom’ – from the first album and rather modestly, and somewhat inaccurately introduced by Wilde as “the only one of our songs you can tap your foot to” – is resolute, whilst ‘Through The Cellar Door’ explodes into being care of Gregory’s coruscating guitar that brings readily to mind Robin Guthrie in his Cocteau Twins’ pomp.
A delightful ‘Send Me Home’ is rather touchingly dedicated to the aforementioned dog and the closing fusillade of the title track from Beings harnessed to a resounding ‘Not Going Back To The Harbour’ is as fine a valediction as you could care to imagine. That, though, fails to take account of a spellbinding first encore of ‘Green and Gold’, with Hazel Wilde sat alone at the keyboard. It demands, and receives, rapt, silent attention.
“Wear your favourite socks”, Lanterns on the Lake had requested prior to this show, “we want this to feel special”. Well, do you know what? We did, and it was.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE