You would strongly suspect that they sit at decidedly different points on the political spectrum, but Lau and Donald Trump do at least seem to have one thing in common. The National Health Service. He may have since backtracked on this assertion but earlier in the week the American Commander-in-Chief clearly saw the NHS as “being on the table” in any post-Brexit trade talks between his own country and the UK. For Lau’s part, their love for the NHS is not so much on the table but emblazoned in big block capitals on a banner that is stretched right above the Crescent stage tonight.
At what are very stark odds to those of the President of the United States, you do get a strong sense that Lau subscribe to the principles of democracy, cooperation, inclusivity and unity. Such togetherness is apparent by just watching and hearing the band’s three members – Kris Drever (guitar and vocals), Aidan O’Rourke (violin) and Martin Green (accordion and electronics) – here tonight. They play as one.
Appearing in York on what is the penultimate date of their Midnight and Closedown Tour 2019, Lau perform two sets which are neatly bisected by a short interval. They dedicate the first half of their performance to material foraged “from behind the Lau sofa”; older songs illustrating perfectly what Martin Green describes as being “the broad and varied (musical) palette that we draw from”, whilst the second is given over almost entirely to their most recent album after which the current tour is named.
They open with ‘Torsa’ and ‘Noitland Castle’ from their 2012 album Race The Loser, followed hot on their heels by a superb cover of ‘Midnight Feast’, a song written by one of Britain’s most celebrated folk singers, the late Lal Waterson, all of which evidence Lau’s having one foot firmly planted in deep folk heritage with the other stretching out into an exploratory sonic orbit.
They conclude the first half of their performance by feeding the great beast that is MORAG, a sound console built out of wires, broomsticks and earthed by quantities of industrial-strength Blu Tack. MORAG’s variable temperament is severely tested as she becomes the epicentre of Lau’s huge cauldron of noise, but with the three men crouched reassuringly around her at one point she maintains her composure throughout.
After the break, the live presentation of Midnight and Closedown confirms the record’s innovation, its beauty and its vivid representation of what life is like living on an island and the feelings of isolation this can bring. As ‘Toy Tigers’ blurs into ‘Echolalia’ the packed room is enveloped in some fuzzy, hypnotic vibe, before the trio eventually draw the evening to a close by once more stepping back in time with an enchanting reading of ‘Ghost’.
Photos: Simon Godley