Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Reuben Penny
I’d largely forgotten what it was like to be so focused on a band that you let your pint get warm. Especially at what is rapidly approaching six quid a time.
I walked into the Band of Horses gig with an open mind, having decided to take my friend whose birthday it was not knowing that she loved Band of Horses. A happy accident, but one that left with a 40-minute drive and a lot of waxing lyrical about how good they are. I try not to believe any kind of hype and make my own mind up; not having seen Band of Horses before, I nodded and smiled in all the right places but would leave it to the band to do the real talking.
The evening seemed a bit flat on the run up to the main event; slow to get people in, quite a subdued support band, sedate lighting. So when Band of Horses came on and launched into a slow number, I wasn’t holding out much hope.
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.
Band of Horses finished the first half of what turned out to be called ‘Dull Times/The Moon’ (you got me guys) and then launched into the second half which opened the set proper. And it was a launch. They hit the audience with song after song for 30 minutes plus, without even stopping to let a full round of applause ring out and with the instrument changes they throw in. That’s no mean feat.
I was impressed. You may be able to tell. That level of polish and co-ordination takes a lot of work and a lot of gigs to get right; it’s clear that while Band of Horses might not be making leaps in innovation musically, they are a professional and dedicated outfit.
They also have a new album to promote, Why Are You OK, but interspersed the set well with classics; all the new material was consolidated into the first half of the set, leaving the second half for crowd pleasers. A reward for being patient with the new material. And I don’t feel like we needed it. I think Why Are You OK has some strong songs on it – the band playing them fresh on this tour, and the few gigs they did last year, did them proud.
The first half of the set had some great dynamic shifts too, with the straight through approach feeling more like a stage show than a race to the end. We had ‘Solemn Oath’, ‘Casual Party’, ‘Country Teen’ and ‘Throw My Mess’ off the new record, side by side with ‘The Great Salt Lake’, ‘Marry Song’, ‘Laredo’ and more from the back catalogue. I couldn’t help feeling it drop off a bit about halfway though.
By the time ‘In A Drawer’ was performed, the last song they played off the new album, things had settled down a bit and lost a little momentum. Still high quality material, just that compared to the grand entrance the peak had passed and what I would normally expect to be a big build up to the real big crowd pleasers, was more of a stroll.
But the crowd pleasers are just that and left everyone on a high, with the live rendition of ‘Is There A Ghost’ being especially good. I had heard rumours Band of Horses were not doing encores for some of the gigs on this tour and I wondered if they would for us. But they didn’t disappoint; ‘The Funeral’ ended the set, and with a roaring applause the evening.
They look like truckers, they play like rockers and they put a setlist together well. But the lull in the middle was shame and if I’m honest, they’ve stayed true to form and kept to their own brand of Southern Rock without too much change or re-invention.
Overall, Band of Horses came over as a relaxed group who put on a good show; I would absolutely recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance.
For more on Band of Horses, visit www.bandofhorses.com
For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham
For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com