Tonight, anthemic indie-rockers, Band of Horses play Bristol’s O2 Academy with way more aplomb than should ever be allowed for a bunch of honky tonk blokes with that much facial hair, plaid shirts and trucker caps!
The South Carolina 5-piece (via Seattle and back again) trade in melody-fuelled, lovelorn Americana that draws on the soft-rock harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the Band. When you throw in rousing choruses akin to contemporaries such as Mumford & Sons, you get a very potent recipe that certainly excites a crowd.
Tonight, there is a huge amount of production on display, relenting on the heavily-reverbed guitars only incidentally throughout the set. But when those instances of calm prevail, they are delivered with rugged charm and, indeed, the loudest cheers are saved for the quietest moments. Mid-set, Bridwell delivers a serene acoustic version of “St Augustine” which progresses to a bare-bones duet of “Evening Kitchen” with lead guitarist Tyler Ramsey. The pair then expand to a trio when “Part One” is performed with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe on mandolin. At all times, they sound as plaintive and sincere as though clutching a book of campfire hymns.
The share of songs is pretty much evenly divided between four fifths of the band’s 5-album back catalogue, including Everything All the Time (2006), Cease to Begin (2007), Infinite Arms (2012) and last year’s Why Are you OK? Their latest offering, produced by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle is the most outstanding in a long time and the tracks certainly deliver on the capricious, southern bar room noir that has become a touchstone of Band of Horses material. It’s a formula that is, of course, familiar to Lytle. The essential melancholy that showcases a widescreen America, with its log cabins, Great Salt Lakes and starry-eyed rustic scenes are not clichés for the likes of the producer and the front man, but a way of life.
With a 2-hour set that never once lacks energy or passion, you can tell that Band of Horses simply love to play music. And whereas other superstar southern rockers such as Kings of Leon and Father John Misty have swung completely towards a pop-orientated focus, Band of Horses have remained true to form. An essential point for their loyal, love-struck, bridle-clutching fans.