Leave it to Minnesotans to go crazy for a band named after a lake.
After playing First Avenue in 2015 and the Northrop the following year, the Los Angeles indie folk quartet Lord Huron upgraded to a sold-out Palace Theater Sunday night.
Fronted by Michigan native Ben Schneider, the band was in St. Paul to support their third album and major-label debut Vide Noir, which hit shelves and Spotify playlists Friday. The group—rounded out by guitarist Tom Renaud, bassist Miguel Briseño, and drummer Mark Barry—was clearly energized by the new material, which strays from their woodsy beginnings to embrace both distortion and waltzes.
Schneider, looking more like a member of Interpol than a contemporary of the Head and the Heart with his black suit and tie, led the band through a fiery rendition of the new record’s “Ancient Names (Part One)” to kick off the concert, before segueing into two fan favorites from 2015 breakthrough Strange Trails, “Meet Me in the Woods” and “Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme).” The 90-minute show was predominately made up of selections from those two records, with 2012’s Lonesome Dreams represented by just two of the 19 cuts.
Other Vide Noir highlights included the expansive title track, the pulsating “Balancer’s Eye,” and the 3/4-time “Wait by the River.” Lord Huron’s latest is one that Schneider, channeling his inner Neil deGrasse Tyson, described in a press release as “an epic odyssey through [Los Angeles], across dimensions and out into the cosmos. A journey along the spectrum of human experience. A search for meaning amidst the cold indifference of The Universe.”
The singer/guitarist wasn’t quite that eloquent in front of the 2,500 people in attendance at the Palace. “I promise not to gab too much. I know you didn’t pay to hear me talk,” he told the crowd, apparently realizing that celestial musings play much better on 4/20 than 4/22, especially when everyone has to work the next day.
Schneider brought the Strange Trails album cover to life for several of the songs from that LP, donning a cowboy hat similar to the one featured on its sleeve. “Fool for Love” and “La Belle Fleur Sauvage” each elicited a huge response from the crowd, while Briseño’s theremin accompaniment flavored “Way Out There” with a beautiful spookiness.
“Ancient Names (Part Two),” even spunkier than its predecessor in prehistoric nomenclature, provided a lively finale to the main set, while the two-song encore consisted of Strange Trails’ “The Night We Met” (“This one’s good for making out,” Schneider suggested) and Lonesome Dreams’ “Time to Run.”
Lord Huron has worked their way up through the Twin Cities music consciousness in a steplike fashion, starting humbly with a 2012 co-headlining bill alongside local rockers Night Moves at the Entry, then supporting Alt-J at First Avenue in 2013 before headlining the Mainroom twice in the next two years. If Sunday night’s gig proved anything, it’s that the group deserves their theater status.
Critic’s bias: I first saw Lord Huron at a Lollapalooza afternoon in 2011, when they were second on a four-band bill (supporting the Joy Formidable) at the dearly-departed Double Door. I also saw them early in the day at Coachella 2013.
The crowd: The sold-out crowd made up for Schneider in the chatter department. I overheard a conversation with verbal hashtags and, a few minutes later, a “Shut up!” that didn’t do much.
Ancient Names Part One
Meet Me in the Woods
Ends of the Earth
Dead Man’s Hand
Back from the Edge
The Balancer’s Eye
Wait by the River
La Belle Fleur Sauvage
Fool for Love
The World Ender
Way Out There
When the Night is Over
Ancient Names Part Two
The Night We Met
Time to Run