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