A large crowd has gathered in the grand theatrical surroundings of O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – the lights have dimmed; a soundtrack of nature-infused sounds filters through the darkness, and a magical forest backdrop appears on stage. All this announces the arrival of Los Angeles-based band Lord Huron, who bring their fusion of contemporary and traditional Americana to London.
Their first time in London since June, tonight’s show has a massive attendance, with the room almost full when support band Radical Face hit the stage. Most well known for their uplifting ‘Welcome Home’ (which has been featured on a number of adverts), they do a good job of suitably warming up the crowd; but aside from a few determined Radical Face fans it’s very clear that it’s Lord Huron that everyone is waiting for. Their first album Lonesome Dreams was released in 2012, however, it is this year’s celebrated follow-up Strange Trails that they are promoting tonight.
And so, with the dimming of the lights and the opening chords of Strange Trails album opener ‘Love Like Ghosts’, fans are thrust into a magical world of Americana for a glorious hour and a half. While some songs are ballads of loneliness and melancholy, such as ‘The Ghost on the Shore’, Lord Huron manage to turn some songs into outpourings of energy, with lead singer Ben Schneider bouncing around the stage, harmonica in tow. By the time it gets to stand out sing-a-long moments ‘Fool for Love’ and ‘Ends of the Earth’ at the end of the main set, the crowd are almost as energetic as the band themselves, intensely focused on Schneider’s haunting voice and catchy folk riffs.
These are all embodied in final song ‘Time to Run’, which ends the entire night on a high with a tirelessly energetic outro, each member of the band displaying their musical prowess. As the crowd cheer the band through their farewells, there is a sense that it will be difficult for anyone to listen to the albums the same again. For a couple of hours, everyone has been in a mythical world of Americana; a world in which – as people stream out onto Shepherd’s Bush Green in the cold November air – I think everyone would have preferred to stay in.