sat 25/05/2024

Lankum, Roundhouse review - a warm evening of folk mastery | reviews, news & interviews

Lankum, Roundhouse review - a warm evening of folk mastery

Lankum, Roundhouse review - a warm evening of folk mastery

Dublin comes to London in a rousing, carousing performance

LankumPhoto credit: Ellius Grace
The folk band Lankum are (for want of a less cliched phrase) at the height of their power. Their gig at the Roundhouse, as they said themselves, was the biggest audience they had ever played for – and everyone was loving it.
 
The Roundhouse, surely one of the most beautiful venues for gigs, felt completely packed by the end of the support act, Rachael Lavelle.
Lavelle’s sound was entrancing in its own right, somewhere between Weyes Blood and Angel Olsen, ethereal but not without nods to the slightly absurd. A great cover of ABBA’s "Lay All Your Love on Me" was a particular highlight, whereas one song with a recurring sample of what sounded like a guided meditation didn’t feel like it fully landed. Lavelle’s music had an aching quality, songs that sounded eerie or menacing, with often perfect instrumentation.
 
Lankum came on as a force of nature and as feels usual for many folk and folk-adjacent bands at the moment, with a lot of members and a huge number of instruments onstage at once. 
 
Their set started with the definite crowd pleaser of "Wild Rover", a classic that showcased Radie Peat’s wonderful voice, starting with just this and sparse instrumentation, then bringing in the warmth of her bandmate’s tones. There was a thrill when the accordion came in with almost a bass note, percussion, then a crash of sound. If there was to be one criticism of Lankum, it was this – that many songs feel that they have a similar structure – the slow, almost acoustic start, the hammer blow of all the instruments coming in at once, then a wild ride to the song’s conclusion. However, their stage presence is so charming, their musicianship so practised and engaging, that it feels churlish to hold this predictability against them. 
 
Their second song, "New York Trader" (from their most recent album, False Lankum) was a sea shanty that led into a jig, then voiced support for Palestinian suffering led into "The Young People" (a song, as they said, about the frailty of human life). They moved from a song they only ever perform live to a piece about hangovers, then "Lullaby", in memory of Sinéad O’Connor. Throughout, they never lost their rapport with an audience who were fully engaged, which can seem like a rarity now for gigs where everyone seems to be talking or using their phones. This must be in part due to the band’s own investment in their performance (a memorable instance saw Darragh Lynch sawing away at his guitar with a fiddle bow, until its hairs were half broken off). 
 
After an admittance that they were terrible at encores (and a question about the royal family that elicited a delighted chorus of boos from the audience) Lankum took the stage again for another four pieces. One of these ("The Old Main Drag") was in honour of the recently departed legend of Irish music, Shane MacGowan, accompanied with a story about arranging this for his 60th birthday party. They ended on "Bear Creek" from their 2019 album The Livelong Day, a joyous and transporting instrumental that came with a steady beat of the audience’s feet, a perfect conclusion to a very enjoyable evening. 
 

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