The Besnard Lakes closed the UK leg of their tour with a triumphant, beautiful and emotional performance at The Assembly Hall, Islington.
The space was perfect for The Besnard Lakes. It’s a medium-sized venue with a grand feel, and that Besnard sound swirled around and filled the space, the mirrorball on the ceiling looking like an escapee from their last album cover, with the smoke machine on overtime.
Apart from some drum problems which caused the band to stop playing after the first number (and cause a few laughs), this gig was one of those moments when everything seemed to crystallise into perfection. Once they got into their stride, The Besnard Lakes were off and running, melding one sublime track into another.
They opened with Like the Ocean from The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, a joyous, soaring production which follows a familiar prog course. The song structure begins in a relatively conventional manner, then somewhere around the midway point it heads into wilder territory… a churning maelstrom of ecstatic beauty with a mash of guitars and synths, leading you deeper into the heart of the song.
This was followed by the lush, euphoric Golden Lion, the single from their latest album A Coliseum Complex Museum. The band were then joined on stage by three singers and later by the string section – at one point they were 13-strong on the stage. Sheenah Koh remained a hazy figure on keyboards at the rear of the stage.
Impeccable production, dense layers and soaring notes are the hallmarks of this psych rock prog outfit. It is not always easy taking material which relies so heavily on studio production and transfer it to live performance in such a way to appear fresh and engaged, and yet The Besnard Lakes manage it. This is in part down to the figureheads and driving force of the band, husband and wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. Jace and Olga engage with the crowd in a humorous and relaxed way, tempering the slightly grandiose pomposity of the material.
The one and a half hour set (it could have gone on all night if I had my way) included Normicon, Chicago Train, Albatross and a haunting version of And you lied to me.
After a three-song encore it’s all over, and a rush to the merch stall (with lustworthy A Coliseum Complex Museum in white vinyl) confirms it’s a job well done for The Besnard Lakes.
The Besnard Lakes have now headed off to mainland Europe but will be back in the UK for Green Man Festival.