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[Review] Lord Huron @ The Forum, Melbourne 27/01/2024

Trying to find the words to describe Lord Huron is so difficult. They’re so much more than ‘indie-folk outfit’, ‘country sensation’ or any other combination of words rattling around in my brain. The show at The Forum proved to me that Lord Huron are so much bigger than a little box. I haven’t been able to get them out of my head, and that’s exactly what they were going for.

Support act, Asha Jefferies, should be a household name already. Her lyrics are beautifully understated, melancholic, and yearning. Her vocals aren’t like anything else I’ve ever heard. This is the last day of the tour, and yet Asha still soars to these breathtaking heights. If there is a ‘calling’ – this is hers. I stop before the main floor of The Forum, spellbound. She’s like sirens, harpies, or something else that would sink unsuspecting music writers. She feels like something out of a fantasy book. “The sound guys here are like the coolest, funniest guys ever! Give them a round of applause!” There’s just a moment of hesitation from the crowd, we are shaking off a musical spell. But then we cheer and clap and hoot and holler before she launches into one last song. “I have a new album coming out in April, check it out if you can!” I have marked April in my calendar with a big ugly red circle as a reminder, and you should to. “This last song is about loving your friends. I’m dedicating this one to Genie and Isaac, who are here tonight. It’s called Spinning.” I might gasp, or cry, or shuffle off this mortal coil for a minute. Spinning is stunning, it’s angelic and mysterious. How does Jefferies manage to capture nostalgia and aching so well in a 3-minute song? I feel like my heart strings have just strung her guitar. Listen to Asha Jefferies, remember to lie down somewhere soft, and let her take your hand and guide you into a part of yourself long neglected.

After a 30-minute break, admiring the beautiful interior of The Forum, the lights go dim. We know what that means; Lord Huron making their way onto the stage. They’re all wearing suits, in earthy fabrics like tweed or linen or suede. Two of them have bolo-ties, the bassist has a neck scarf. I see two big, black-brimmed hats. They look like relics from a bygone American era. I don’t think the cowboy aesthetic is an act for them, it feels natural. I could be convinced they bought those hats in 1879 from Ye Olde Hat Emporium. There is something timeless, powerful, and enigmatic oozing from the band.  Front man Ben Schneider seems aware of the folkloric, mythic quality the band has. After a haunting opening of Time’s Blur and Love Like Ghosts, Schneider takes the mic gently between his hands – and you could hear a pen drop in a sold-out Forum.

“We’re going to try to sort of take you on a musical journey. There’ll be ups and downs and twists and turns. Heartbreak and redemption, laughter, tears, high-fives, pats on the butt, making out – everything in between, ok? So, if you find yourself bored, or thinking ‘This isn’t for me.’ Just wait a little bit. Something your flavour will come up.”

Immediately, the band comes to life again. The lights on the forum stage dance in sunset reds and oranges and golds. Meet Me in the Woods, Mine Forever and Dead Man’s Hand, all perfectly flow into each other as I am spellbound by those lights. The instrumentals are flawless, they’re better than the album. Intricate guitar work, mesmerising vocals and a perfect dance of drums and bass in the background – it’s musical bliss. There are moments in the songs that follow that feel like homages to Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and countless other classics. Every song is Lord Huron listening, growing, and incorporating. Their entire setlist, their whole discography is a love letter to music. It’s written for those who came before then, and ferociously studied by those coming after them.

Wait by the River feels like a sermon. Schneider’s hands go above his head and he calls for us to do the same. Without thinking, my body obeys. But it isn’t just for this song, it’s the whole night. Every time they say clap, I slam my hands together involuntarily. They control every hair on my head, every muscle in my body. I’m not resisting the spell Lord Huron are casting. The band have themselves under a spell at times, like they’re mere vessels for something greater. The three guitarists in the back left drop their heads and sway, but somehow still play these beautifully intricate melodies. My jaw is still on the floor, if someone could pick it up as they passed – that would be great.

Towards the end of the night, is where we hit our high. Schneider leaves for a minute, and comes back wearing a comically large skeleton mask – el Día de los Muertos style. The World Ender and Ancient Names are both sung, played and demolished by skeleton-led Lord Huron. The mask adds to the feeling that these guys might be reincarnated, straight out of the Wild West. That they are mythical and mysterious and not of this world. The guitars are screaming, Schneider is strumming so fast his hands a blur. The vocals are the strongest they’ve ever been. I really struggled to describe this momento. It was so unexpected, so spooky, so perfect. A live-music best-of reel momento, for sure.

Something I never thought I’d see, was a theremín being played live. The stage goes black as Schneider changes out of his skeleton mask, and a single spotlight illuminates the neck-scarf wearing bassist; Miguel Briseño. He stands perfectly still, moving his hands into the instrument, and playing the most heartbreaking introduction to Way Out There. My heart almost can’t take it. I thought it would just get this solo at the beginning – oh, how wrong was I. For 4 beautiful minutes, we are treated to haunting theremin. His hands move with precision, melancholy, and appreciation for the strange instrument. He is a master. My friend keeps whispering “omg a theremin.” Over and over. Words can’t do the moment justice, yet again.

And of course, The Night We Met. One of the biggest songs of recent memory. This song is beautiful. It’s perfect, really. It’s so heartbreaking, so hopeful, so hopeless, so human. Listen to it. It makes my heart feel like it’s been chewed up, spat out, reinflated, and sent to find me. Everyone is singing at the top of their lungs. For that final chorus.

I had all and then most of you. Some and now none of you. Take me back to the night we met.

We sing and we scream, and we cry a little, and so do they. This was a special, intimate moment for everyone there that night. No notes, perfection. Now excuse me while I go cry and yearn in peace.

Schneider leaves us with some closing words, and a promise to come back soon. I’ll leave you with them, too.

See you next time, folks. Until then, live until you die.

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