Band of Horses. Live at Academy 1, Manchester. 01/02/2011

Review by Denise Tench

Towards the end of tonight’s gig, during intense crowd favourite ‘Funeral’ – which Band of Horses threaten to swap for an “obscure cover track” – lead vocalist Ben Bridwell’s mic screws itself free and falls down to his knees. “There are some technical demons here tonight”, beardy keyboardist Ryan Monroe explains later on, while dealing with some pre-song fuzziness.

Despite several challenges tonight, this gig, perhaps unsurprisingly, lives up to the hype that surrounded it (being long sold-out with a tighter guest list than a Hugh Hefner pool party). However, what is surprising is the uncharacteristically nonchalant vibe of the Academy 1.

Whether this is due the miserable Tuesday night, mass ‘last train home’ syndrome or an uncommonly large portion of the crowd being rather mature in the age department, it’s difficult to say.  Granted, Band of Horses have a lot of mellower moments, but there’s no excuse for the absence of a throbbing front section and a steady stream of crowd surfers, even mid-week.

One thing that can’t be held accountable for the lax atmosphere and the steadily dwindling audience is the band’s presence and astounding back-catalogue.  Band of Horses are, unarguably, a band that lives to be live. Each member emanates a comfort and almost gratefulness for being on stage – from the relentless grinning of bass player Bill Reynolds to the all-weather chirpiness of Bridwell.

The band also looks the part, but might be a little too obligatory skinny indie boy if it wasn’t for their scruffy beardy ways, advertised further by background images of forests, rocks, trees and wildlife.

In a bold move, considering the worshipping ‘Infinite Arms’ received in 2010, the band shun newer material for past tracks for the first ten or so songs.  Showcasing the intensity of both Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey’s vocal clout, ‘The General Specific’ ‘Is There A Ghost?’ and ‘The Great Salt Lake’ are all pulled off well, while ‘Older’ sees Monroe also hold his own in the charisma department.

A reassuring indication that the band don’t take themselves too seriously are a couple of covers – obscure New Years’ song ‘The End’s Not Near’ and Steely Dan’s ‘Dirty Work’ – the latter track given a great country-ish rawness during this interpretation.

On the other side of the coin, more pensive numbers are magnified and even closer to the bone live, their frankness and delivery making them almost difficult to listen to. ‘No-one’s Gonna Love You’ and ‘Evening Kitchen’ are particularly lumpy throat moments, strengthened by the subtle heart-wrenching echoes of twinkling riffs and Bridwell-Ramsey harmonising that seems to have been made for melancholy odes.

Now they’ve balanced their penchant for experimentation with their established admiration, Band of Horses are must-see band – whether that be for their stage presence, grounded but intuitive lyrics, unique trickly-eye moments or powerful, grinding indie rock.

Just make sure you show them the appreciation they’ve earned by sticking around ‘til the end.

Useful links –

Band of Horses Website

Twitter

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Myspace

One response

29 03 2011
Dan Tuck

horses

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