PHOTOS / RECAP / SETLIST: Lord Huron @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA 2/25/14

Words by Jordan Roberts | Photos by Justin Yee

Not many reviews you read will begin with an aside, here’s one of those rare treats — I hate any sort of art criticism. I think its a platform for those better with words than myself to show how pithy they can be in a snarky review or bloat the page with obtuse reference upon obtuse reference in a tongue bathing their sacred cow. But more so than that critiques are one persons opinion, one person that you may have absolutely nothing in common with doing their best to skew your feelings about something you may love and loved. My point is to take nothing away from this review one way or the other. What you felt about it is whats valid.

“You’re right, they’re not too hipster!”

“I told you! I call them hotster.”

This is an actual conversation between two young ladies overheard at the tail end of most recent Lord Huron show at The Fillmore. If a show can be defined by the audience attending Lord Huron seems to be cunningly aware of their niche and have carved it out quite nicely. Gone are any beards, checkered button downs, and unkempt locks. No, this was a band embracing a much more polished top 40 sense of itself with little to no desire of looking back on what it had or might have been. Decked out in mostly suits, though lead singer Ben Schneider shed his jacket in lieu of the more approachable look accompanied by a rounded derby, Lord Huron looked like a band poised to fill that gap that lies somewhere between the awe shucks manufactured emotion of The Lumineers and the sunset over a desert psychedelia-tinged folk of Phosphorescent.

Completely on top of their game and tight as a new snare, the band walked a tight rope in performance and tone that truly did nail the center between a Mumford & Sons set and the aforementioned Phosphorescent. It’s as if they seem to know they exist in a grey area between too cheeky and home spun for your average Pitchfork reader but not too cool or smug for an audience that wants to feel amongst friends in a Patagonia vest and not be sneered at through thick black glasses framed by a beard. This cognizant awareness of whats working for them right now was evident in a set that relied heavily on their latest effort, Lonesome Dreams, and only once touched upon their more ethereal musings that they mined in Mighty when The Stranger showed up as the last song of the encore.

Depending on who you are, audiences can be like a teenage boy on a date only wanting one thing, in bands like Lord Huron’s case it’s ‘the hit’. Of course we are speaking of their breakout semi-hit “Time to Run”, (which as of the writing of this review has topped over 3 million spins on Spotify). Two songs into their set I surveyed the crowd, got a feel for its demographic, and told myself there is no way in hell they play that song anywhere in the set but last. And to their credit, self and audience awareness, they did just that. Why? Because they knew what the audience knew, play it up front and half this crowd is gone. Lord Huron has the look and feel of a band that is striking while the iron is hot, while this whole folk by way of arena-rock anthems is en vogue they are going to take it straight to the bank. In this business you may only get one chance out of thousands upon thousands to sell out The Fillmore in your career and they’d be damned if they were going to play the last 1/3 of their set to a half empty room after selling out the place and who can blame them? Know your audience. Its the single most important rule to follow if you are in a band. Not many have the luxury of being able to vacillate between genres (Beck) or put out records that challenge an entire fan base (Radiohead).

It’ll be interesting now to see where they go from here. They have Mumford & Sons success written all over them but is it already too late of that? Do they have more crowd pleasers like Time To Run in their back pocket and if so will that audience still care or will it have moved on to the new hotster band making their radar? My guess is that with another album and another hit under their belt they will be plugging in at The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, miss the mark and its Bottom of The Hill.

1) Ends of the Earth
2) The Man Who Lives Forever
3) I WIll Be Back One Day
4) We Went Wild
5) Fool For Love
6) The Ghost on the Shore
7) She Lit a Fire
8) Lonesome Dreams
9) Until The Night Turns
10) Lullaby
11) Time To Run

12) Brother
13) The Stranger