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Features / Lau: eclectic, experimental & enthralling

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MULTIPLE award-winning, experimental folk trio LAU took the Mareel audience on a truly eclectic musical journey to conclude a UK tour celebrating a decade of music-making.

Over 200 punters braved the snowy blizzard on Saturday night to take in a career-spanning evening split into separate acoustic and electric sets.

The trio – singer/guitarist and isles resident Kris Drever, fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke and accordionist/keys/electronics from Martin Green – crowded round a single microphone for the first 45 minutes. The acoustic set drew chiefly on material from earlier in the band’s career including the part-elegiac, part-frenzied set of tunes Kris’ and a deliciously reworked version of 2009 song Winter Moon.

After the interval the curtains were drawn back to unveil Green’s array of instruments and electronics, most notably “Morag” – a bewildering array of kit and cables that the endlessly inventine Englishman wrung all manner of sounds from. 

The second set majored on songs and tunes from the band’s more recent LPs, kicking off with Torsa from pioneering 2012 record Race the Loser. As much as anything else in LAU’s canon, the tune places O’Rourke’s extraordinary composition and playing at its centre.

Hinba, the opening track from 2007 debut album Lightweights and Gentlemen, is given something of a makeover by Green too – neatly encapsulating the evolution of this truly unique band in the last 10 years.

Other high points include Ghosts, arguably the finest thing Drever has written and a hymn to immigrants that feels entirely apposite in these painful Brexit times. The “We Love the NHS” banner hanging above the stage is another sign of the band’s strong political conscience.

After weaving their way through a plethora of complex musical passages and some preposterous instrumental interplay, lyric sheets had been distributed so the audience could accompany the trio, back round a single mic, for the simpler – but every bit as enjoyable – pleasures of Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye. They then departed the stage to rapturous applause recognising what had been a quite enthralling evening. 

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