Review: Lanterns On The Lake – The Deaf Institute, Manchester

The Newcastle sextet Lanterns On The Lake were the latest band to occupy the delightful Deaf Institute on a chilly Sunday evening in Manchester.

Support came from the equally delightful Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell, whose debut album Kite was released recently to much deserved high-acclaim. With their sweet and shy presence on stage, along with polite humour and hushed voices, it was a rather pleasant start to the evening, if not a little slow. But then again, the duo were a fitting act for an evening that certainly felt like an autumn Sunday…cosy, sleepy and intimate.

Lanterns On The Lake create very beautiful, atmospheric melodies; soothing and fragile at times, crashing and heart-pounding in others. Their recently-released debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, is a record that, despite being recorded on a shoestring in an isolated Northumberland cottage, brims with quality and more importantly, a great deal of time and effort. It is often these kind of albums that become firm favourites…put together carefully and delicately, but still with the odd unintended background noise, that reveals its homemade, rustic charm, from a band that seem innocently uncertain of what the future is to bring.

The record is a beautiful collection of tracks. The haunting and dreamy vocals of Hazel Wilde, along with the experimental and ever-altering guitar of Paul Gregory, plus the gorgeous strings, keys and everything else in-between, makes this a highly enjoyable album…but leaves the listener wondering if this could be pulled off, on stage….

Starting with album opener Lungs Quicken, one is immediately pleased to see that the six band members do in fact seem highly capable of pulling it off. Wilde essentially breathes the line, ‘It’s a lively crowd tonight’, creating a wave of grins as an audience reaction. The heart-pounds as the drums roll and thunder, before the song comes to a whispery end. It’s a fine start….a damn fine start. And it doesn’t stop there. Stunning album tracks such Ships In The Rain and A Kingdom tell historical stories of lost fishermen and letters from WW2 soldiers, whilst Keep On Trying is delivered with pure grace that swoons each and every crowd member.

However, despite all the layered, likeable lovliness, something just doesn’t seem right. Hazel had declared early on that a bout of flu was spreading through the Lanterns camp, and it seems pretty obvious that this young collection of talents are fairly nervous…however it all seems a little reserved and introverted. During and after each song, the band turn anyway from the crowd, taking something away from the live spectacle. Whether this is nerves, modesty or just getting lost in the music, it does become a little tiresome at times. As does, I’m afraid to say, some of the music. Yes, it is obviously stunning, however the start-hushed-end-big-and-loud thing is perhaps used just one too many times, as is what clearly seems to be Gregory’s favourite effect of using a bow on a guitar….

Nonetheless, not a lot can be taken away from the tracks they deliver. Adam Sykes’ vocal contribution on the gorgeous If I’ve Been Unkind, is a delightful moment, whilst I Love You, Sleepyhead is played with such beauty that one can’t help but succumb to the spine-tingling emotions that draw us in….’You’re just in time to save a life’…an honest, heartfelt admission from the wonderful Hazel Wilde.

This may not have been the most entertaining of spectacles, but it is music so good, that one would be quite happy to stand there amongst fellow folk lovers with eyes shut, swaying and nodding to the stunning sounds that Lanterns On The Lake deliver. Nonetheless, a bit of stage presence has never hurt anyone and one can only hope that in time, their confidence and belief in themselves will finally hit them, resulting in the complete and faultless performance that they’re most certainly capable of.