Cosmic Drifters: Two Nights with Lord Huron Lord Huron Dazzles NYC At Brooklyn Steel With Vide Noir
New York, NY — Japanese retro rock played in the background as fans poured into Brooklyn Steel. Initiates to the world of Lord Huron may have puzzled over the inclusion of 50’s Nippon rockabirii in the pre-show playlist. But if you’ve seen frontman Ben Schneider’s dance moves during the reverb-drenched rockabilly stylings of songs like “The World Ender,” you’ll find it fitting that Masaaki Hirao — the “Japanese Elvis” — crooned over the speakers as we waited for the show to start.
From album to album, the Michigan-bred, LA-based band has explored a palette of influences. The ethereal harmonies of folk-leaning Lonesome Dreams drew comparisons to Fleet Foxes, while the shuffling rhythms and more muscular guitar riffs of Strange Trails drew us into a fictional world that was part spaghetti western, part pulp magazine. What remains constant is the immersive nature of the Lord Huron project — these songs are tethered to characters whose lives collide in each album’s narrative arc and in the accompanying music videos.
Lord Huron’s latest offering, Vide Noir, similarly takes us into a parallel dimension — one populated by fortune tellers, time travelers, and lovelorn cosmic drifters. And the band continues to push their sonic boundaries, incorporating warbly Mellotron to evoke a psychedelic ambiance in some tracks, drifting into bluesy, slow-burner romance in others, before pulling out all the stops for some revved-up, distorted garage rock.
During the changeover between sets, a Lord Huron Shopping Network commercial was projected onto the wall behind the stage, enticing the crowd to shop the full line of Vide Noir products, like the stargazer’s harness, which will help you obliterate the boundaries of space and time.
The stage remained dark when the six-piece band walked out, and as drummer Mark Barry launched into the hard-charging rhythms of “Ancient Names Pt. 1,” each musician’s silhouette was just barely discernible against a glowing emerald backdrop. It was not until Schneider stepped up to the mic that the stage was finally illuminated with strobes pulsing brilliant colors that echoed the lyrics: Well, the neon lights burned red and gold; I came to have my fortune told.
There was plenty of magic throughout the two evenings with Lord Huron — visual and tactile cues to guide us far out past the astral plane. An hourglass stood on the speaker cabinet behind bassist Miguel Briseño, and as the sand ran out, a man emerged from the shadows to turn the hourglass back over. The setlist taped down next to Briseño’s pedalboard was written in what appeared to be Arabic (if you can read it, let us know).
Mid-set, Schneider left the stage as a prerecorded “Celestial Poem” played over the sound system. When he walked back onstage, it was with an armful of flowers that he tossed into the crowd before picking up his guitar for “La Belle Fleur Sauvage.” And for the intro to “Way Out There,” Briseño produced a swooping, melancholy melody without touching anything but air, his gestures subtle and precise above a theremin.
Misty Boyce has been a welcome addition to the touring ensemble, adding warm, saturated vocals and a layer of keys to the mix. And guitarists/vocalists Tom Renaud and Brandon Walters are perhaps the dead-shot Sundance Kid to Schneider’s Butch Cassidy — the moments when the three converged stage right were particularly thrilling.
Both nights at Brooklyn Steel contained surprises during the encore. The first evening, LA-based singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers joined the band for “The Night We Met” (the song appeared in season one of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” and for season two, the band re-recorded the song with Bridgers). And on night two, the capacity crowd was treated to a cover of “Harvest Moon.” (You can listen to the Spotify Sessions version here.) The Neil Young classic was an apt choice for Lord Huron, whose songs convey a universal sort of yearning, tangled up in mysterious plot-lines that play out against backdrops of whispering pines and moonlit rivers.
Before launching into the final song of the encore, Schneider thanked the fans who’ve “been with us from the beginning, the days when we played Mercury Lounge” — referring to the much cozier Lower East Side venue. He then pulled out a set of drumsticks for the breezy, tropical “We Went Wild” from the band’s very first EP, Into the Sun. The song finds the narrator exploring temple ruins and wooded isles with his lover, through sunny days and sleepless nights: I don’t know what the hell it was that gave us so much life.
The two nights at Brooklyn Steel were cinematic experiences that drew us into richly-imagined worlds and kept us dancing under strobe lights and starlight, following the emerald star.