Lord Huron–Live at the Georgia Theatre

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I’ve been interested in Lord Huron since a coworker introduced them to me, and even more so upon their release of Strange Trails in 2015, my favorite CD of the year, in equal parts due to the music and lyrics about creepy love.  They’ve been through town before, but the timing never worked out.  This time, the timing was good; it just required a drive the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA.  Translated: It makes for a long day.

Lord  Huron Athens concert review

We arrived at the venue before the doors opened which worked out perfectly.  The Georgia Theatre has generally been rated a great concert venue nationally by people who like doing such things, and I hadn’t been to a concert in Athens since I saw an acoustic Neil Young show in the University of Georgia’s gym back around 1984.  That show and venue was dreadful, but Athens is considered a music hotbed of sorts, so it (probably) deserves better.  And they have it.  The building was constructed in 1889, and has served as a YMCA, a music store, a Masonic lodge, a furniture company,  Sears, and a movie theater among others.  It’s been a concert hall now for almost 30 years.  Today, it doesn’t look or feel old due to complete renovations following a fire in 2007.

Upon entering, observing hordes racing up the stairs, we smartly followed. Immediate reaction:  Wow.  Capacity is ~1,000, and it has curved tiered balconies where barstools are placed against railings well suited for placing feet and beverages.   So, we scored front row seats (at the 3rd level).  Still, that’s great, both for the view and the avoidance of standing for hours.  Not to be left unmentioned, overhead fans and solid air-conditioning were welcome on this 92o day, and the sound system was very good for a rock venue.  As a last observation, Athens apparently is burgeoning with young adults even in summer, and it was nice to attend a show where I was an elder in attendance rather than the youth movement.  In other words, Lord Huron’s heyday is now, not the 1970’s.
 Lord Huron Athens concert review

Waiting for the show, we observed what appeared to be a westerly wind bearing moisture across the stage, to the point of wondering if it damaged electronics.  This is apparently a trademark “fog” that the band prefers, though it never really fogged.  At the beginning of the set, various noises thought to be birds (possibly with a guest appearance by R2D2) set the tone for this band, possibly classified as folk-rock.  And thus begins the strange tales of Strange Trails, their last CD which the band is still touring to promote.  And this was my worry.  I already have a difficult time in deciphering leader Ben Schneider’s vocals in the carefully controlled sonic spectrum of their CD.  How would it work out live?

Lord Huron concert review athens ga

At the outset, not so well.  Five songs into it, the band didn’t sound like their recorded selves.  It turns out that vocal effects matter.  Schneider isn’t a bad singer; he’s just not a compelling singer… without the reverb effect.  About five songs in, he sang a spot relatively unaccompanied which alerted someone to note that, “hmm, the reverb switch must be off.”  After being fairly let down, the music I came to hear was heard.  This didn’t seem to matter to the sell-out crowd, who were very enthusiastic from the start.

To the band’s credit, they do color outside the lines, extending several songs or otherwise making minor changes.  The band is more about an overall sound and harmonies than it is particular instrumentation. Of note was bassist/keyboardist Miguel Briseno working the Theremin on “Way Out There,” where sounds are generated by waving hands through electromagnetic fields.  This wasn’t nearly as fluid as the recorded version, but it’s apparently a challenging instrument to execute.

lord huron concert review athens ga

Otherwise, despite the animation of Schneider and the band’s guitarists, percussionist Mark Barry was the visual focal point for those with an elevation advantage, supplementing the music forcefully or barely audible, as the songs required.

lord huron concert review athens ga

The set included a good mix of songs from both of their albums, plus a few others that were on EPs or descended from elsewhere.  Strangely, the closing song and both encore songs were not as strong as others in the set, like “Fool for Love” Overall, this was a good show, but I find myself more interested in what they will record next than the next opportunity to see the band live.  A Blu-ray concert recording with clean sound, though… I’d do that.

A Theremin – you’re curious, right?:

Set list:
The World Ender
Time to Run
Lonesome Dreams
The Birds Are Singing at Night
Ends of the Earth
Dead Man’s Hand
Way Out There
Meet Me in the Woods
Fool for Love
The Night We Met
The Stranger

The Ghost on the Shore
She Lit a Fire

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