Sunday 30th January, Band of Horses took to Bristol’s 02 academy to a completely sold out show and an eclectic crowd. A gradual build up of warm feedback, combined with a sea of smoke welcomed the band to the stage, to portray what they do best. Straight away they just seemed to be at home, easing their way into the set opener “Trudy,” which is a new track taken from their latest release and Grammy nominated third album Infinite Arms. Lulling the audience into a bittersweet ensemble the band quickly digressed into one of their most notorious tracks “Is there a ghost?”, the song inspired by front man Ben’s feeling of paranoia.
Throughout the bands impressive hour and a half long set they provided new fans and old fans the right balance, taking everyone on a journey through their extensive back catalogue. Flirting from upbeat tracks such as “The great salt lake” to more soft melodic acoustic ballads. The band manage to keep every single person within their presence captivated. Performing more recent efforts such as “Factory,” the band delivered a powerful and very surprisingly, much more aggressive rendition from their recorded track. It’s enlightening to witness a band live who put a lot of effort into their live sound and live appeal and in this 90 minute show Band of Horses did just that. Accompanied throughout their set was a fantastic array of projected photography which fitted very well into their sound, highlighting their rich American heritage.
The sound varied due to continuous changing of instruments and members, Monroe regularly stepping from the sidelines on the keys into the spotlight equipped with a further guitar, adding it to the mix, keeping each track different from the last, furnishing the sound with deeper and heavier elements. “Cigarettes, wedding band” was another completely polished track and was just as tight as the previous tracks, yet it screamed a somewhat anthem like recognition.
A small break for the band, who had been really blitzing through their set, gave front man Ben time to connect with the audience before introducing a gimmick into their evenings performance. Each night on their current tour, the band have picked a cover a day to implement on that night in a little twist they called “Du Jour Of The Day.” Sunday night and quite refreshingly still looking at the lyrics sheet, Band of Horses covered a Bruce Springsteen classic “Hungry Heart,” despite having a familiar nostalgic country feel to the track, they bought a much riotous aspect to the cover.
Following the success of this and accomplishing track after track on their set list, the highlight of the evening had to be the encore. As the band left the stage, the crowd roared for their return, as the noise levels intensified, the bands backing projections changed to a very hazy image, a single light shone down and both Ben and Tyler returned into the spotlight, as the remainder of the horses waited for their cue, the evening came to a very poignant stand still. Sharing just one microphone between them, Tyler played the acoustic performance of “Evening Kitchen” his vocals accompanied with Ben’s. A truly touching fusion of melodic moving simplicity, this was the moment that charmed all into a sweet silence and slow movement – An absolute breathtaking, compelling composition. This was shortly followed by the return of the band mates and the final few tracks of an emotional set. It was clear that they all love what they do and they do it so well, so why shouldn’t they?
The end of the night was drawing to a close and their most recognized single to date “Funeral” had still yet to make the set list, despite answered requests that the track was not to be played and previous controversy at past events due to culling their finest known record, Bristol was extremely lucky. Following what Ben described as one of his best tracks, “Ode to LRC” was pursued with the long awaited delivery of “Funeral”. This track has an emotional hold time and time again on every listen, live was no different. Nothing but engaging and winsome. Band of Horses have the right rich acoustic tone, blended with ambitious lyrics, endearing melodies and vocals and raucous riffs, they finished the night with “Marry Song” and left an entire room simply amazed.
If you need to see an uplifting live band, this is the band for you. Their performance was just so full, there was nothing lacking. They shower you with inspiration. Seeing such a jovial band appreciate what their own creativity and ability has reached is invigorating. Frankly one of the best live bands around.