By Carter G. Shelter
As the lights dimmed to illuminate an old tube radio on stage, and a voice crackled through the speakers of Terminal 5, it became clear that Lord Huron were embracing the “Strange” part of their new album, Strange Trails. The voice warned of mysterious lights seen over New York City, as the band took the stage in front of floor-to-ceiling tree trunks and a glowing sign bearing the title of their album in script reminiscent of the campy adventure movies that Lord Huron so often evoke. Led by frontman Ben Schneider, the L.A.-based folk-rock quartet (joined on tour by an additional guitar player) quietly started playing “Love Like Ghosts,” the opening track off the new record, over a gentle hiss from the radio. After the first verse, though, they cut out and let a wash of reverb carry them into the album’s second track, the upbeat “Until the Night Turns,” which featured some fiery leads from guitar player Tom Renaud.
The band came out in excellent form as they mixed material from Strange Trails with their 2012 breakthrough Lonesome Dreams. They transformed the soft fadeout ending of the latter album’s title track into a powerful crescendo, turning in to face each other as the song came to a crashing finale, while new song “Cursed” saw them all getting into the infectious groove of the baritone guitar and Schneider’s acoustic strumming. A trio of Lonesome Dreams songs flowed together seamlessly (possibly because they are arranged in the same order on the album), with “She Lit A Fire” providing what was probably the night’s biggest sing-along. This led into the Strange Trails cut “Way out There,” during which Schneider’s haunted vocals were augmented by some eerie Theremin from bassist Miguel Briseño.
But while the band as a whole was on point throughout the show, it is clear that Schneider is the focal point, and it took him a little bit to really hit his stride. When he hit it, though, he hit it big. A three-song stretch of new album standouts saw him really embody the characters he writes about. In “Meet Me in the Woods,” his face showed a bit of anger as he sang, “I have seen what the darkness does/Say goodbye to who I was,” which carried over into the dark surf rock of “The World Ender,” in which his wild yelps and Elvis dance moves felt a touch sinister under the deep red lights and flashing strobes.
To close out the set, the group reached back to their 2010 Mighty – EP in the form of “The Stranger,” a long-time staple of their live show. A false ending led into a building refrain of “Now that I’ve seen your face/I’m haunted by the letters of your name,” sung passionately into Schneider’s distorted microphone over a cacophony of drums, cymbals and guitars which led into a fantastic slide guitar solo from Renaud. After a short break, they came back out for an encore of “The Night We Met,” the somber first single off the new album, and “Time To Run,” which provided a fun, danceable end to the night for the band and the audience. As the band exited, Schneider tuned the knobs on the radio once more until the disembodied voice returned, this time warning of alien abduction, giving the show a strange ending to match its beginning.
Carter G. Shelter is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org