Lord Huron rocked the Uptown last night

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Lord Huron, José González
Uptown Theater, Kansas City
Thursday, October 8

An amazingly cheery crowd came in out of the evening rain for last night’s show at the Uptown. Everyone in the theater was all smiles and animated conversation as they milled about the floor. And why not? For all the mournful aspects of Lord Huron’s music, there’s a rollicking positivity to it that can’t help but infect you.

Taking the stage in front of a forest backdrop, lit only from underneath by a spotlight on frontman Ben Schneider, Lord Huron opened with “Love Like Ghosts.” But it was the second song, “Until the Night,” that really kicked the show off as the band jangled and jammed under a neon sign that proclaimed the title of their latest album.

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Over the course of its set, Lord Huron played through the majority of Strange Trails. The songs are all basically variations on a loping rhythm, with varying degrees of psychedelic freakout thrown on top of a lot of strumming, but the energy Lord Huron throws into its music really sets the band apart from your standard folk rockers.

With the power of a full sound system, the beauty of Strange Trails is truly evident. “Dead Man’s Hand” or “Lonesome Dreams” are lovely enough on record, but the live setting brought out little details in every song that even a pair of headphones doesn’t. A good portion of that is due to the fact that Lord Huron is loud — like, full rock-and-roll-band loud.

This was a bit of a shock: You don’t expect to have your sternum kicked in by the bass line that starts off “Cursed.” The surprise and power of the sheer volume gave the show a certain electricity that I wasn’t totally prepared for, but it did leave me pleasantly surprised. Lord Huron can rock, you guys. 

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But the crowd, though warm and receptive — there was much cheering and clapping — was fairly static and immobile, even during something like the ecstatically hand-clap-laden “Hurricane.” The same went for the gorgeously rocking “The Birds Are Singing at Night,” although that one may be due more to the fact that it’s on the soundtrack to A Walk in the Woods, the not particularly good recent adaptation of the Bill Bryson book.

Maybe the audience was saving its energy for something else (but if not closer “Time to Run,” then what?), or maybe it were just exceedingly well-behaved, but the crowd’s energy just never seemed to match up with Lord Huron’s. It was a bit of a shame, but to the band’s credit, the musicians never let it faze them. 

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Leftovers: Swedish singer-songwriter José González went on first. He was nice, but he kind of sounded like an amalgamation of every folk act of the late ’60s. The effect was pleasant and quiet, his songs almost like lullabies; it was pretty but unexciting. His opening song, played solo as he finger-picked his guitar, reminded me of nothing so much as an indie-rock José Feliciano, but once his band joined him, González’s music took on a Simon and Garfunkel feel. It was all acoustic guitar and harmonies — although, perhaps, given the prominent world beat rhythms, Graceland-era Paul Simon fronting the Byrds is a bit more apt.

A nice side benefit of this show was getting to watch it through the eyes of my kid — this was his first concert. He was positively rapt the entire show, and it did my jaded heart good to see a video gamer unplug for an evening and stare at the stage, listening.

Lord Huron setlist
Love Like Ghosts
Until the Night Turns
Dead Man’s Hand
Lonesome Dreams
The Ghost on the Shore
She Lit a Fire
Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme)
The Birds Are Singing At Night
Way Out There
Meet Me in the Woods
The World Ender
Fool for Love
Ends of the Earth
The Night We Met
Time to Run

Categories: Music