Review: Lau, The Crescent, York, June 5

BEYOND folk, and never competing for hit singles, Lau have long since moved from giving people what they expected.

This multi-award winning trio are a rich prize for The Crescent and promoters Please Please You, and the packed house certainly got musicianship of the highest order.

In this age of insta-celebrity, Lau present a band performance. Kris Drever, with his sizeable stage presence and a winning, reedy burr, held back, ensuring the rich talents of his bandmates were given equal prominence.

But there was much more than that; there was theatrics and showmanship, that increasingly rare commodity. Electronic impresario and accordion player Aidan O'Rourke also showed off some great comic timing.

The first set took some unusual steps through lesser trodden areas of their back catalogue. Their cover of Lal Waterson’s Midnight Feast was a comparatively easy highlight, while the long medley that finished with The Death Of The Dining Car was riveting and sonically challenging in equal measure.

In full flow, the band were as awe inspiring as the rigging filler gales that sweep their native Scottish isles, unfailingly in tune with one another despite the complexity of the music. This reimagining of folk music felt a long way from merrie England or Princes Street pipers.

The second half was given over to their latest record, Midnight And Closedown, and took place lit by miners' lamps. The penultimate song featured a backlit wine glass chiming as fiddler Martin Green wheeled alongside. Written and pre-recorded in Shetland, these were the soundscapes of febrile imagination let loose. While the record is as brooding as a one of Auld Rock’s headlands, this re-creation bathed it in a warmer light.

Despite being taken off Trump’s table, the NHS was incongruously placed as a banner behind the band, then not mentioned. With none of the politics of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Crescent show, much of the turmoil was hidden and turned inward.

She Put On Her Headphones wraps angst around a lilting violin whereas Itshardtoseemtobeokwhenyourenot wore its heart on its sleeve. The warmth of the applause made it clear their messages were getting through. Musically magnificent, uncompromising and forward looking, Lau aren’t easy to love, but they’re worth it.

Kris Drever returns to York for a solo show at The Basement, City Screen, on October 15.