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Venue: The Royal Northern College Of Music
Town: Manchester
Date: 24/11/17

It's been a decade of folk dominance for the NHS loving Lau; hence the tour to celebrate their 2007-2017 on the back of their 'Decade' album although sadly no 10th anniversary tin themed goods on the merch table. Instead, what better way to celebrate than with their ten years on the road symbolised by a gannett… One featured large of the limited edition print which was the single concession to the sort of merch that accompanies greatest hits tours that you'd more likely associate with the likes of arena superstars like ELO or The Eagles looking for a nostalgic cash in at a minimum of quadruple the price you'd pay to see one of not just folk, but music in general's genuinely groundbreaking acts of the past decade.

A cash in is certainly not the case with Lau who would be suitably served by the branding 'ever onwards' as they built an all encompassing set round the remarkable musical journey which they've undertaken, and will undoubtedly continue to do, since 2007. The first half saw the trio walk onto a set not far from what you'd see in a school hall. Black drapes hanging precariously from a couple of poles, disguising what was to appear for the second half, plus three wooden and steel chairs clustered round a single microphone, there simple spots at their feet. Three players, three instruments, unplugged, no gimmicks or the usual array of wires and cables that resembles a snakes wedding. Just an intimate glimpse into how the trio may well have first sat together a decade ago to play out their initial explorations. Maybe with a few pint pots involved. It was a fascinating experience albeit slightly unusual with Martin Green having to adopt a strange posture to speak into the single mic.

Kris Drever waxing eloquently about the Orkneys while Martin's much more down to earth manner introducing the Waterson's 'Midnight Feast' as a song about snacking. The combination of the intricacy of some of the tunes and Kris's 'Throwing Pennies' ended in a rare frenzy; just an all too short treat to see things stripped right back to the barest of bones - maybe the possibility that the success of the venture may lead to something similar again in the not too distant future. Defintiely an event they should repeat.

A second half that was preceded by the band wandering round to hand out the songsheets to the Hamish Henderson/Dick Gaughan translation of s 'Freedom Come Aa Ye' for a singalong for the encore, saw the drapes removed to reveal their grand 'We Love The NHS' banner - nothing spoken, enough said - and the usual collection of gadgets and musical ephemera that we now associate with Lau. A lengthy set saw Kris switching between a couple of nice looking and impressive resonant sounding electrics, one even serving as a coat hanger and Martin as ever, wizarding his way through his electronic configuration of which Heath Robinson would have been proud. Aidan O'Rouke may have gone for the simple fiddle yet accompanied by a pedal board that would have the gadget geeks salivating. 'Save The Bees' saw him emerging dramatically from the orange light and smoke like a magus yet arguably the moment of the set when the band came back in after the slow middle section that follows the hypnotic tick tock rhythm of 'Tiger Hill', a true dynamic moment.

The familiar 'Hinba' led into a raucous sound experimentation amidst much knob twiddling, what in the sixties might have been labelled something like a freak out, and eventually into 'Death Of The Dining Car' before the trio signed off from back round the single mic. Coming full circle in an intimate closing piece on a Scottish folk song with the simple sentiment that so many, except perhaps those who hold the balance of power, it would be a much better world if we just got along with each other.

"In your house all the children of Adam
Will be welcomed with food, drink and hospitality"

Mike Ainscoe words and pictures

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