The Besnard Lakes are out on tour, as they usually are when not immersed in flora and fauna finding inspiration, or conjuring songcraft in their hometown of Montreal, Canada to add to their canon. Theirs is an expansive aural and visual experience, inclusive of myriad influences and styles. A hedonistic concoction of sweet and bitter sounds, dark and light themes, stoney pop, rib crushing rock and facemelting psychedelia.
Now I feel it’s only right to first briefly mention this. The gig was on the first Friday night following the disturbing occurrence that took place in Manchester on that fateful Monday. This Friday night was the opening night of a big Bank Holiday weekend if you will. The usual bouquet of art and music events ready to blossom, the FA Cup and other sports finals and athletics competitions were all eagerly anticipated. Yet the residual shock of the initial incident and the fears/concerns regarding ongoing developments throughout the week were still resonant. Thankfully these negative waves were more tacit than overt and, despite them, the incident, military deployments and the wail of 24hr ‘news’ cycle Cambion, did not prevent music lovers from venturing out and supporting this show at the always welcoming Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.
The crowd comprised a varied mix of young and not so young people, obvious veteran fans of the band and new members to the congregation. Oliver Wilde had been supporting for this UK leg of the current tour but tonight though, he wasn’t available. This was a curse and a blessing, whilst sad to miss the opportunity to see his act we were glad that it meant The Besnard Lakes would play, not one, but two sets.
The first opened with smoky mystification, a kaleidoscopic emergence of emerald and sapphire colours and the pulsating sounds of Sheenah Ko’s synthesisers. Sound and light that like ‘The Divine Wind’ blessed those gathered. The Besnard Lakes live shows are masterfully performed and with the same energy found on their records. Oscillating peaks and troughs, playful and embracing, provocative and professionally delivered. The band tour with their own sound and light crew and it does augment the whole show. It’s that familiarity and strength of relations between the players and crew that really comes through on stage.
The sardonic protest of ‘And This Is What We Call Progress’ talked to tensions that lingered in the spirit of the audience. Those tensions arising from the week’s events evaporated exorcised by Jace’s ethereal vocals. Audience freed, the set flowed straight into ‘Golden Lion’ and Olga’s Bass pounded in rhythmic metronomy, chests puffed and fists pumped. At the end of this track Jace paused the performance for a moment. It was as if the band had sensed the tensions, prescribed the antidote and upon seeing the positive response to the treatment, addressed the audience directly. With genuine empathy Jace asked if we (the crowd ) understood what (in the Brudenell as a venue) we had here. Boozy woops and victorious cheers oozing unity answered the question.
From that point on I, and I think its fair to say the entire crowd, were escorted happily on a journey piloted by the band. A cosmic adventure via a blend of laser show and a wall of sound that lead through moments of St Elmos Fire/Purple Rain euphoric momentum/reflective amalgamation. I don’t remember any interlude, I felt no separation of sets. Just a blissful rise and fall through the still fresh hits from their back catalogue right up to classics from their latest LP 2016’s ‘A Coliseum Complex Museum’ and 2017’s ‘The Besnard Lakes Are The Divine Wind’ 12”.
‘Necronomicon’ transported like the climax to a Kubrick movie and ‘Tungsten 4:The refugee’ and ‘The Plain Moon’ whiskey swaggered with Twin Peaks’y Bang Bang Club bohemia. Guitarist Robbie MacArthur bent blues notes to nosebleed peaks and filtered acidic chords through tremolo, flanger, fuzz and choral echos. Robbie was proudly sporting a 25th Anniversary ‘Ride’ football shirt too, which just added extra cool as the digital delay scales mesmerized.
‘Cedrics War’ was another poignant track whose plea for resistance, like all the tracks, across both sets was underpinned with the powerful percussion of drummer Kevin Laing. A great percussionist with fantastic range from driving a beat from the kick to sizzling the senses with atmospheric splash and crash. There are many things to love about this band, their live shows are brilliant. There are phases when enraptured by their music, where one could be forgiven for believing themselves to be listening to The Eagles or My Bloody Valentine, Fleetwood Mac or Ride, Carlton Melton or Creedence Clearwater Revival, Slowdive or The Jesus and Marychain… I could go on, but you know what I’m saying and where I’m going with this. They’re great, go see them live and buy their records!!
As ever the cultural bastions at Brudenell Presents once again hosted another fantastic event that. After a week of moral wrangling, harsh realities, social solidarity, fully automatic armed police on the streets and a welcome yet blazing heatwave, the psychedelic sanctuary, atmospheric absolution, and sonic sorcery of The Besnard Lakes live at the Brudenell Social Club soothed and moved the souls and the hips of many thankful folk that evening. Thank you The Besnard Lakes.
Don’t fight the War Cedric !!!
See The Besnard Lakes across Europe NOW (see dates here).
And find out more about the band:
and view the out of this world video for ‘Necronomicon’ below:
Words: Ben Straughair
Photos: Paul Maye @ IKLIK Photography