Review: Lanterns on the Lake

The crowd at Divan Orange on Feb. 3 was lively in anticipation of Montreal-based singer Elliot Maginot and British act Lanterns on the Lake.

While the performances that followed were not the sorts that lend themselves to a raucous response, they were nonetheless enchanting.

The night began with a short set by Maginot, whose vocals proved popular with most of the crowd, aside from a rude few who seemed entirely uninterested in listening and talked loudly throughout.

However, his performance of beautiful indie-folk songs acted as the perfect introduction to the sounds of five-piece band Lanterns on the Lake.

If you were to simply walk down St. Laurent Blvd. on Monday night and the music of Lanterns on the Lake drifted your way, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were entirely a folk band—Sarah Kemp’s violin paired with Hazel Wilde’s vocals and keyboard make for easy listening. The reality was something more complex.

There was an edge in many of the songs, and when it appeared, it did so with aplomb, largely via the use of drums and cymbals.

This merging of folk and rock was best epitomised by Paul Gregory’s occasional playing of an electric guitar with a bow.

The set as a whole was a mixture of softer tracks, such as the lovely “Ships In The Rain” from their debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, and those like “Elodie” which lean more towards the indie-rock spectrum.

Whilst the changes in tempo—both between tracks and within songs themselves—had the potential to render the performance chaotic, it instead created a balance, making the dreamier songs more hypnotic, and preventing the set from feeling too melancholic.

The drumming did not detract from Wilde’s often haunting voice, but rather served to highlight its power.

The to- and fro-ing between the subdued and lively was utterly captivating, and by the end of the set the band themselves appeared to have become so lost in their music that not a single member was looking at the audience.

Wilde and Gregory were no longer even facing the crowd.

Despite this, the connection already built up between the performers and onlookers did not dissipate, and the group’s own intensity only drew the crowd in further.

Considering this performance was part of Lanterns on the Lake’s first tour of North America, the audience was surprisingly engaged, as I doubt many were ardent followers of the quintet from Newcastle.

Indeed, the friend I went with had never heard of them before but, by the final verses of the catchy “Not Going Back To The Harbour,” she was happily singing along.

Near the end of the night, Wilde expressed a wish to return to this part of the world later in the year and, based on the reaction to this enjoyable show, people would surely go and see them again.

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