We’ve wait­ed over two frus­trat­ing years but here they are – Mon­tre­al psy indie band The Besnard Lakes return to UK shores for a run of live shows. Actu­al­ly this night at Oslo in Hack­ney is their penul­ti­mate on the tour. The venue has sched­uled a club night for half an hour after the Bezzies come off stage so front man Jace Lasek warns us there will be no encores – they will just pow­er through as much mate­r­i­al as they can in the time giv­en – and that means we don’t get much of the ban­ter either. No com­plaints – Oslo is a great venue and if you like being so close to the stage you’re almost on top of the band, this is the place to be.

I was expect­ing a track from their lat­est album to open the set but instead it’s an oldie but spec­tac­u­lar good­ie: Like the Ocean, Like The Inno­cent, Parts 1 & 2, with its misty, swirly entrance and that emo­tive swell of vocals, guar­an­teed to pull you into the set’s mag­ic from the first moment. 

A few num­bers in, Black­strap from The Besnard Lakes are the Last of the Great Thun­der­storm Warn­ings, an emo­tion­al jour­ney of an album, announces itself with its icy open­ing notes that shim­mer in the fog-filled air. That insis­tent, ring­ing tele­phone which goes unan­swered, com­bined with a gath­er­ing pace, cre­ates a ten­sion which man­i­fests itself on stage almost on a par with the record­ed version. 

This was a full, round­ed set, pulling tracks from here and there from the breadth of The Besnard Lakes’ out­put. Bass play­er Olga Gore­as’s vocals seemed a lit­tle low in the mix for a few of the ear­li­er num­bers but that improved and the sound qual­i­ty was excel­lent. Rain­drops, the ear­ly-released sin­gle, the har­bin­ger of the new album to come, was redo­lent with depth and sen­si­tiv­i­ty, from Jase’s falset­to to the dex­ter­i­ty of Rob­bie MacArthur’s gui­tar work. Oth­er high­lights were Alba­tross with its wonky, chim­ing gui­tar and The Refugee.

The anthemic Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again will no doubt become a reg­u­lar fix­ture on their setlist; a cli­mac­tic, feel-good track with its swoop­ing chord changes and ecsta­t­ic cho­rus – and which got the audi­ence to the clos­est thing to danc­ing – well some of us were any­way. The title track The Last of The Great Thun­der­storm Warn­ings sound­ed majes­tic, a full-bod­ied, joy­ful res­o­lu­tion of the album’s nar­ra­tive about life, death and life after death. Colour Yr Lights In round­ed things off, an emo­tion­al finale to the show.

The Besnard Lakes got the cheer they deserved. And there was notably none (as far as I can make out) of the chat­ter that’s marred gigs since lock­down end­ed. I like to think that all my fel­low audi­ence mem­bers felt like I did, total­ly in thrall to this unique and won­der­ful band who, for rea­sons unknown remain slight­ly under the radar. When are they com­ing over again is my next thought – or do I have to start sav­ing for a trip to Canada?

The Besnard Lakes Oslo 6th March 2022

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