Acoustic Splendor Side Show at The Corner, 26/07/10
Band Of Horses leader, Ben Bridwell is in possession of one of the finest voices in contemporary Americana, yet his occasional, severe stage-fright means his unassertive vocals can weaken when the band are in full cry. The announcement then of a special acoustic one-off show was instantly tantalizing given Bridwell's often tender delivery. Wonderfully, this stripped back affair would prove to be an ideal setting for Ben to breathe life into his cache of songs. He along with Tyler Ramsey (lead guitar) and Ryan Monroe (keys) harmonise beautifully throughout the set which is made up evenly of tracks from all three albums. The acoustic billing also meant they were keen to play around with some arrangements - treating to a much sped up Wicked Gil and a greatly slowed down Weed Party from debut, Everything All The Time.
The current album, Infinite Arms is overall a more up lifting set than say 2007's shimmering, moody Cease To Begin, and even the sway-along hay ride of the first record doesn't quite reach it's gleeful heights. That pervading sunny vibe is captured effortlessly tonight, and speaking of captured, this concert is being filmed – the four TV studio-sized cameras gave it away – for a future DVD release, which really should have encouraged a bit more audience response, but many here tonight are affected by Monday-itis so there's very little activity off stage. Ben's in good spirits though and talks a lot between songs, plus he's no longer hidden behind that famous wall of hair, but instead, just for the shoot he's mowed it all down to a neat little moustache. Tyler Ramsey, the gigantic lead guitarist, however is a mop on legs looking more than ever like he's not so much on tour but had just escaped from a cellar in the dead of night. The rest of the band are in various degrees of beard farming mode, with the prize going to Ryan Monroe for his ample 'ginger bear' growth. But let's not split whiskers when there's glorious music to review - and Band Of Horses have a peerless amount of that. It's pretty hard to believe they already have three albums out.
It feels like only yesterday I heard The Funeral for the first time and fell instantly and deeply in love all the while harbouring the thought that 'nobody would ever hear how great this is, it's far too cult-y.' Fool me, the word got out and their sound waves of golden greatness spread around the globe gently bewitching people en masse. Then came second album Cease To Begin providing all us mortals, haunted and music starved with a juicy morsel to see out the winter. This album's strength is it recalls great music from across decades past, while sounding inspired and new. The set tonight is bookended by two cuts from Cease… the yearning Cigarettes, Wedding Bands and the paean to great story telling, Ode To LRC, while the bittersweet No One's Gonna Love You forms the centrepiece. On the latter song we are treated to a sublime acoustic reworking, just Ben and Tyler sharing a mic while the band exit the stage. Simple and captivating moments like these fill-out the show and that Monday-itis felt throughout the crowd is begins to look more like stunned amazement. The support act, Mike Noga & The Gentlemen Of Leisure, who played a pretty tidy blues rock set tonight features Dan Luscombe from The Drones, who has become close with Band Of Horses. He surprises us and joins them on stage, complete with his accordion, for a rousing Marry Song. Ben and Dan perform a bizarre introduction, Bridwell; "Hello Mr Fuck, I'm Mrs Fuck." It makes little sense, but the comradely exchange is hilarious. It's noteworthy that Band of Horses for the first time wrote or co-wrote much of Infinite Arms as a group, as opposed to just Ben writing as on the previous albums. As a result, new songs such as Older - which was written and sung by Ryan – sees Ben take the backseat and the keyboardist lead the band for a time. It's this new dynamic, along with the full band harmonies that really propels the show along.
The band have found a solid footing at last after losing several members in their short lifespan and have eventually gained musicians fully committed to making Band Of Horses a tour de force. Their 2008 show was a triumph, but tonight an even happier, more dynamic and sweeter sounding group stand before us. The obvious friendship between Ben and Tyler particularly has provided a benefit to their live show. A second duet, Evening Kitchen, in the encore shows off the two lads evenly matched pitch and range. They compliment each other so well, it's as if neither wants to let the other down or outshine him. This acoustic set demonstrated a softer, more pliable side of the band, yet they only held back a little on the grunt. The majority of the songs were less 'unplugged' as they were 'reshaped' and in doing so, lost absolutely none of their appeal. Experiencing this concert was a seriously enriching couple of hours. With seemingly little effort, these horses once again finish first.
Photos by myself and Fruitbat taken at the Palace show the following night.
CORNER HOTEL SETLIST:CIGARETTES, WEDDING BANDS
SONG FOR YOU (Gram Parsons cover)
NO ONE'S GONNA LOVE YOU
THE GREAT SALT LAKE
ODE TO LRC
THE GENERAL SPECIFIC