Lau @ Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, 1 Jun
Adventurous and empathetic as ever, Lau reel in an appreciative audience with old favourites before performing 2019's Midnight and Closedown in its entirety
There are no boisterous requests or outbursts as Kris Drever tunes up for Lau’s final song of the night. As applause for Riad draws to a close, a woman leans forward in her seat and quietly implores the trio to play Ghosts. A few others mirror her request, and there’s a sudden, palpable restlessness among the crowd – will they, won’t they? – that dissipates instantly as the first few notes of the song ring out, generating a brief outburst of delighted cheers, which quickly give way to appreciative silence.
Ghosts, featured on 2015’s The Bell That Never Rang, feels simultaneously older than all present, and distressingly relevant enough to have been conjured up on the spot. 'Sir I was born here / So where would I go?' Drever sings. Stirring and commendably empathetic, the song ends on a mournful note, and Lau are left in darkness as the lights rise and rest, at last, upon the 'WE LOVE THE NHS' banner that has accompanied them for some time. The encouraged shift in focus from Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke to the strife which has often encouraged such poignant work from the three is moving, tasteful and met with the widespread approval you’d expect from a Glasgow audience, who are, throughout the evening, frequently bathed in more light than those on stage, which regrettably snatches a little gravitas from proceedings.
In lieu of a support band, Lau perform two sets. The first is comprised of old favourites, while the second finds Drever, Green and O’Rourke performing their sublime new record Midnight and Closedown in full. A more hushed, yearning rendition of itshardtoseemtobeokwhenyourenot translates as a kind-hearted offering to those who 'wake up in tears', in need of a song to listen to them as they listen to it. Drever’s vocal, and particularly his acoustic, are a little low in the mix at times. I Don’t Want to Die Here loses a little of its momentum and intimacy as feverish percussion – an otherwise welcome addition – often threatens to drown out all competing noise. This is also noticeable on studio standout Toy Tigers, which beautifully articulates the observations and shifting worldview of a new parent.
She Put on Her Headphones, ushered in with a synth line reminiscent of Mogwai’s recent electronic explorations, finds O’Rourke on tremendous form, while Green coaxes thrilling, unexpected beauty from various instruments throughout the evening. Lau remain bold and adventurous in their quest to find new ways to make use of the space around them: pacing the stage with small amplifiers that splutter out the looped remnants of a song in order to herald in the next one, and gradually coming closer and closer to the microphones until the audience are overwhelmed by the kind of ferocious static you may expect from a sick or belligerent radio on the verge of packing in.
Recent years have, rewardingly, brought us more than a few tenth anniversary performances of seminal Scottish records, so it’s a pleasure to witness an album performed in its entirety before a decade has passed: not a single track on Midnight and Closedown deserves to be left behind. Reeled in by Lau's many past triumphs, we leave entranced and heartened by their latest.