LIVESTREAM REVIEW: Lanterns on the Lake @ Sage Gateshead (07.11.20) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Thomas Jackson, Tynesight Photographic

In an age of singles as wallpaper for Spotify playlists, the celebration of any album in its entirety is important. Make that album the spectacular Mercury prize-nominated Spook The Herd and put that celebration in the North East’s cultural cathedral the Sage Gateshead, and we’ve got something quite special. It is a terrible shame that we couldn’t be there in person to celebrate with Lanterns On The Lake, as band leader Hazel Wilde announces herself when she addresses us streamers in her familiar humble whisper. She jokes that it’s “a bit like one of our early gigs, playing to an empty room.”

This isn’t just any empty room though. That familiar wood panelling; dense smoke, like fog settling on a still lake; lamp lit, exposed bulbs: LOTL have nowhere to hide. Our hosts are arranged in a horseshoe, giving a voyeuristic sensation; like this is a moment for them, between them, that we’re lucky to be a part of. This sense of detached mystique (deepened by the vacuumous silence that stood in for the expected rapturous applause) dissipates when Wilde starts to sing.

Her direct no-nonsense words leave no room for mistake: she is singing to you. Booming, pounding drums and bass locked together punctuate her every word, rapid firing in Baddies as Wilde rages: “They’ve got the money, but we’ve got heart and nothing left to lose.” Subtle but soaring depth is provided by the violin and guitar tag-team, rather than leading melody; partnered with the stomping rhythm section, they selflessly lay a foundation for Wilde’s emotive, melodic piano and vocal. The dynamism of her delivery catches you off guard. Her delicacy, the wobbly vulnerability when she pauses to muse “When the band played I thought of you. It’s funny what music can put you throughand disappears without a trace as she snarls back into the chorus “Say alright. They’ll get you in the end and I tried but you’re up, you’re down again”.

Flawless musicianship in service of storytelling is demonstrated perfectly in the wonderfully odd guitar break of Every Atom after Wilde announces “If I had to split every atom just to find a trace of you. That’s what I’ll do.” The guitar grunts and squeals as if, like the atom, he is splitting the poor instrument just to emphasise her point.

Wilde gives us a nod and a wink in the next break, dedicating Loose Screen Beams to “our friends in the States”. No specifics. No need. She’s plugged in her telecaster and launched into a stomping rocker in which she almost coyly confesses to hold onto hope in a broken society “He said, ‘When all is told and you weigh it up, we don’t need a wall, we need a bigger boat’. Well tell me something new. He said, ‘Do I have hope?’ And I said, ‘I don’t’ But I do, I do, I do, ‘course I do”! 

Gentle piano swells into a waterfall of strings as Wilde toasts one last night before the end of the world in Before They Excavate. Her almost uncomfortably second person narrative continues through the epic arpeggiating guitar-led Swimming Lessons, as she berates us for our hesitancy “For God’s sake, look at me straight!” 

The lights dip and Wilde gives the next song to “those that have lost someone.” We know where she is going to take us but it doesn’t soften the blow when our hearts land there. Secrets and Medicine, mourning someone before they are gone. After the brief reprieve, pounding piano and stuttering drums return for This Is Not A Drill, building to the chorus drop of a double snare hit answered by a wailing violin as Wilde marvels at life’s plot twists. “Of all the ways it could’ve been. Of all the sinners you’d hope to meet. I never thought I’d be the one to be saving you”.

And just like that, we’re at the end. Wilde’s impossible humility comes forward again “Thank you if you’re still watching. This has been scary and surreal.” She gushes that they are just grateful to play the songs live. She sings it best in A Fitting End: “Oh what a fitting ending. Oh what a perfect scene. What a die-for moment this turned out to be”.

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