Near the beginning of Lord Huron’s nearly-two hour set inside Express Live! on Wednesday night, lead singer and songwriter Ben Schneider promised an emotional odyssey: “There will be ups and downs, laughter and tears,” he said. His six piece band delivered both dark and light, though the darkness clearly dominated the songs’ lyrics and narrative.
Like the murder ballads, folk songs, and novels that inspire him, Schneider can’t help being drawn to tragedy, loss, and disappointment. So the “light” came in measured increments, qualified moments. “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” confessed at the end, “I'd give it all to love that girl,” but not before admitting before that, “What you’re looking for won’t be found easily.” His obsession in “She Lit A Fire” never makes an appearance, other than in the protagonist’s mind.Keep up with what's going down in entertainment in central Ohio: Sign up for our Life in the 614 newsletter
Schneider is at least as skillful with the dark side, obviously influenced by timeless tales of woe. “The Ghost On The Shore” taps into songs such as “Long Black Veil” to describe the unhappy dead. “Yawning Grave” began with a deceptively simple title suggesting a creepy image and followed through with considerable dread. “World Ender” described intoxicating revenge.
There was a significant disconnect, though, between the gravity and nuance of Schneider’s lyrics and the songs’ arrangements and performance last night. Much of the band’s appeal is built on its constant harmonies and big, echo-enhanced sound. On songs such as “Ghost,” the singers’ harmonizing rung like a bell.
The dreamy sound augmented the opening medley of “Love Like Ghosts” and “Meet Me In The Woods” and set a pattern, for a time, that was considerably satisfying.
The songs—which echoed surf, spaghetti westerns, the Beach Boys, vintage rock-and-roll, aged folk, and contemporary indie rock—deserved better, though. Schneider’s pledge for dramatic variety was narrower than expected in practice; the band’s arrangements served to flatten the emotional tone. Songs that quietly dug deep into a dark corner were accompanied by light, pleasant melodies.
More importantly, too many songs went from a whisper to a scream. “The Birds Are Singing At Night” was one of a couple songs that began with an introspective tone and ended with fevered choruses. Their emotional centers would have been far better served if they had ended quietly. Songs that dug into deep questions were finished loudly in a nearly Mumford-like regularity.
Bully opened with a set of sassy brat-punk that was short and to the point.