Midlake – Cyprus Avenue, Cork 24th June

Midlake ‘radiate a different kind of light’ on their return to Cork, says Siobhán Kane Midlake land in Cork, after playing a festival in Germany, a strange experience, as frontman Eric Pulido suggests, because you are “never quite sure if people are there for you”. Tonight, however, in the intimate space of Cyprus Avenue, everyone is excited to see the Denton, Texas band.

Londoner Lyla Foy supported, with her dreamy, woozy sound, which brought to mind a raft of references including Mazzy Star, Nick Drake, and Vashti Bunyan. She showcased material from her richly layered record Mirrors the Sky, released on Sub Pop earlier in the year, and ably complemented what was to come.

If Foy was the preface, Midlake provided both chapter and verse, from 2006’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, to last year’s Antiphon, and tucked together tightly on stage, in what Pulido cheekily refers to as “unsafe conditions” they provide a buoyant, transporting experience.

To see them in such a small space is to actually see what makes them such an interesting band – they can hardly contain the epic nature of their own work; the strident Ages soars with Pulido’s vocal and Young Bride‘s percussive galloping, from drummer McKenzie Smith, threatens to disturb the structure of this lovely venue.

Since Tim Smith left, the band have reappraised, but by setting out Antiphon as a kind of renewal, they are both honouring their past work while bringing in new influences and processes (prog features, a little). And though much of their work reflects on melancholy and loss, there is an inherent joy, which comes to the fore tonight, with Eric Nichelson often turning to Jesse Chandler with a smile, as if awaking from a kind of reverie – a reverie that is shared by Joey McClellan and Paul Alexander on guitars.

Pulido mentions that though they have only played “maybe one show in Denton”, they can’t go too long “without coming back to Ireland, and Cork, which is our second or third home”, an audience member shouts back, “third?”, and somewhere a glass shatters, and the good-natured atmosphere continues to swell.

Songs like We Gathered in Spring, and Roscoe are given new leases of life with new arrangements and new renderings – and sound clear-eyed and beautiful as their more recent work, and a song like Provider, does. There is a melodic, spectral beauty to so much of what Midlake do, and do well, and they marry it all with an earthy sensibility and eyes turned towards heaven.

This beauty is punctuated by Pulido’s charming chat between songs, as he talks of their festival experiences, and excitement at the USA’s triumph at the World Cup, with Chandler quipping that “even a tie is a win for us”, and there is a sense of true contentment within the band, a testament to their ability to withstand change, and come together with their diverse musical gifts; something that feeds into their encore – a moving cover of Bob Dylan and the Band’s I Shall Be Released. And as they throw themselves into the majestic Head Home, they radiate a different kind of light.

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