Lasers? Lasers! — at the Hare and Hounds? Has Kings Heath gone all Twentieth Century or is this some sort of post-modern statement that has passed me by? As it turned out they were nothing to do with the huge wheels of steel rig pushed up against the front of the stage in lieu of some after-curfew acid house extravaganza, but rather they were part of the light show.
Perhaps the band had brought them to brighten things up a bit.The Besnard Lakes like playing in the twilight; and with as much stage smoke as they can muster. It all adds to the intense atmosphere that they create and to be frank it has become one of their signature items, along with the huge guitars and the vocal harmonies. The irony is that for all the staging The Besnard Lakes are always close to their audience, both physically and emotionally whereas the support tonight, unencumbered by anything but a few lights, may as well have had a fire curtain pulled down in front of the stage. They played as if we were not there.
Don’t get me wrong; I like Post-rock. Mogwai, Godspeed you! Black Emperor and Maybeshewill, amongst others, feature quite heavily in the old Gelling record collection and to be fair Einstellung have some top tunes. But tonight they were not doing it; at least not for me. Maybe it was the early start and the small number of people who knew to turn up early or maybe because the place seemed freezing cold, but there was not too much going on. Too many of the tunes fell into the Post-rock trap. They just sounded like long endings of other people’s tunes. I hope to see them again soon in more amenable circumstances.
In contrast The Besnard Lakes reach out across the stage to you in their gigs. They always have something going on, whether it’s drummer Kevin Laing impersonating Axl Rose or Jace Lasek laying down his cod English accent. Tonight it was Chris de Burgh night, or more specifically, Lady In Red night. Olga Goreas, always somewhat idiosyncratic in attire was wearing a bright red number with a huge roll collar. Cue the serenade; simultaneously affectionate and teasing.
The crowd were a bit quiet between tunes but did liven up to ask for a joke, which they got (a really rude one – Jace is telling it in our headline pic), and to engage in a bit of too-ing and fro-ing about the electric twelve strings. The phrase “dueling fancy twelves” was bandied about for People Of The Sticks and Albatross.
The new album, A Coliseum Complex Museum, was well represented including the magnificent Tungsten 4 — The Refugee. This tune starts with an echo-y slow blues riff and morphs into a huge guitar sound-scape with a cascade of guitar and keyboards to finish. Apparently this owes something to The Eagles and Hotel California. OK. I’ll take their word for it but I can’t see or hear it myself. Some of it is closer to Eagulls than The Eagles.
Amongst the standards were the more obscure: In The Forest only appears on the Golden Lion EP and Four Long Lines as the b-side (is this still a valid term) to Albatross. They tweaked the planned set list on the fly realising that they had a lot of time due to the early start. The encore became the “long-core” according to Jace.
They are a band that infuriates the pundits who struggle to apply a pigeonhole classification. The lazy label is Space Rock — whatever that is. If it’s necessary to analyse these things then favourites like Land Of The Living Skies, And You Lied To Me and Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent, are almost prog rock, conceptual and expansive, the end of Albatross would not be out of place in Einstellung’s set, and Disaster and Nightingale are pop songs. They are a great band and once you make the connection you could see them every night.
It’s best to forget the tags and just absorb the atmosphere.
The Besnard Lakes set list
Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent (Pt. 1 The Ocean, Pt. 2 The innocent)
And This Is What We Call Progress
And Her Eyes Were Painted Gold
The Plain Moon
People Of The Sticks
Tungsten 4: The Refugee
And You Lied To Me
Land Of Living Skies (Pts 1 & 2)
In The Forest
Four Long Lines
Review: Ian Gelling
Photographs: Stephanie Colledge