lanterns on the lake– THE DEAF INSTITUTE, MANCHESTER –

My introduction to Lanterns On The Lake was a few weeks back, when I reviewed their latest album, Until The Colours Run. I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the tracks and made a mental note to catch them when they play Manchester. So naturally, I was pretty stoked to review their gig at The Deaf Institute. Plus it’s always great to go to a gig armed with a steely certainty that you’d be familiar with almost every single song that would be on the set list.

I arrived a little after the doors opened and settled myself comfortably on the red padded wooden seats. I have caught many a gig at The Deaf Institute’s lovely music hall and it is undoubtedly one of my favourite music venues in the city.

With the sound check done, the Newcastle band shuffle onto the stage, easing their way into their positions. May I pause here to attempt to describe how very crowded the stage is. There is a piano, a drum set, several standalone drums, a number of guitars (both electric and acoustic), a violin, a bass, an accordion, a harmonica, a laptop and a few microphones on stands. Add five people and you get the picture.

They play a total of 13 songs, including 3 oldies. ‘Picture Show’ kicks it off and what hits me is that the vocalist, Hazel Wilde’s voicelanterns on the lake is even better in real life. Its truth and fragility blankets the strength of the music. And the next thing that jumps out is that Paul Gregory, the guitarist is playing his guitar with a bow! The only other person I’ve seen do that is Jónsi of Sigur Rós.

For the rest of the songs, there is the signature balance between hard and soft that I recognised in their album. There are moments when Lanterns On The Lake loses control and then times when they rein in the music. Both approaches often occur in the same song, thus producing an intricate fluctuation. Examples include ‘Elodie’, ‘The Ghost That Sleeps In Me’, ‘Our Cool Decay’ and ‘The Buffalo Days’. It’s quite a feat, really.

An absolute highlight includes watching the way the band performs. If you haven’t already picked up from my earlier description of the stage, the members are multi-instrumentalists. Throughout a song, they change instruments, often moving from one end of the stage to the other to assume the place of another member. Besides that, the band plays with such vigour and passion. In ‘A Kingdom’, Gregory hit the drums so hard that one of the sticks flew out of his hand amid cheers from the crowd. And I must mention that Sarah Kemp, the violinist is wonderful and truly holds her own against the other instruments.

What makes a gig a memorable one is when there is fab audience interaction. Wilde was very sweet and soft-spoken, taking the time to speak to the crowd in between songs. For the encore, Wilde played ‘Green And Gold’ solo, joking, “The rest went to drink.” And before the last song, Wilde said it was a shame because Deaf Institute was having a “disco or something so we have to pack up and go home,” eliciting moans of disappointment mixed with laughter from the crowd.

I left the gig thinking, “This band is special.” After catching them live, I’ve gained a better appreciation of their enormous talent in multi-instrumentalism and the haunting quality of the music they play. Glad I made good on that mental note of mine.

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Amanda Hoi

Amanda is in a committed, lifelong relationship with indie electronic music. Plays the cello and guitar, and plans to sing once she's mustered enough courage. She's a Malaysian who's found her home in Manchester. Currently reading law at the University of Manchester.