Scottish/English folk band Lau started out back in 2004 in Edinburgh, and have since become one of Britain’s most highly acclaimed young folk bands: a status assuredly justified with their ‘Best Group’ winnings at the BBC Radio Two Folk Awards for three years running.
Their 90-minute set at Cargo was met with whoops and howls of friends and family, old fans and new listeners instantly captivated by intricate jigs and reels, that at once suggest a carefully measured composition but ooze the surprising and intoxicating air of an improvised play off.
Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Kris Drever, accordion player Martin Green and violinist Aidan O’Rourke the three tussle back and forth their melodies, exchanging and echoing one another throughout these lengthy interludes. Their tracks, while self-composed, retain a deep rooting in traditional folk yet possess a characteristic and contemporary sound that is entirely their own. Instruments notes ebbed and flowed over the course of the set, while their musicians played with such infectious vigour that you were suddenly reminded of just how strenuous playing at such length and intensity is – somehow they made it look altogether effortless and of second nature.
To observe Lau’s onstage interaction was one thing, to see how they deftly conducted and directed their simultaneous playing as a trio; with the subtlest of eye contact was quite another. The rousing tunes successfully employed the simple and almost elementary manipulations of their instruments that all too many musicians fail to rein in and let loose at the right time: atmospheric peaks and troughs in pitch and tone that are down to the intimate knowledge of their instruments alone, along with arrangements by fiddle player O’Rourke that allow a to-ing and fro-ing interplay between himself, the guitar and accordion; in which each is allowed to lead as the others mimic and add depth before taking over moments later.
Set highlights included “Winter Moon”, one of maybe only four tracks with Drever’s Scottish drawl, accompaniment, “Stephen’s” and “Unquiet Grave”, alongside a showcase of two tracks from their collaborative effort with fellow Scot Karine Polwart, entitled Evergreen; one of which was a reworking of Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight’s “Midnight Feast”.
These lyrical songs aside however, it’s on the instrumentals that Lau live up to their title, and prove their releasing of a live album isn’t a cop-out alternative to heading into the recording studio, for this is a collective of accomplished musicians in their own right. Martin Green has toured with the likes of Eliza Carthy, Joan Baez and Linda Thompson, while Aidan O’Rourke founded Blazin’ Fiddles. Kris Drever as we know, is a renowned solo singer/songwriter, who has joined forces with Roddy Woomble of Idlewild, and John McCusker to form a super group, releasing the album Before the Ruin in 2008.
To witness their combined performance only serves to emphasise their exceptional musicianship as individuals: for once a band that doesn’t allow the spotlight to land on merely one member. Three-fold perfection is much better.
All Photos by Michael Farrant (All rights reserved)