On Wednesday night, South Carolina-by-way-of-Seattle sextet Band of Horses played a sold-out show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. These mostly bearded rockers played a wide-ranging and joyous 17-song set of sugary, mid-tempo melodic pop and winsome, rootsy ballads.
The night began with “Is There A Ghost,” the band’s lead single from their much raved about sophomore disc Cease To Begin, which was released last fall on SubPop and is the follow-up to their 2006 debut CD Everything All The Time. From there, the crowd of mostly indie hipsters and scattered older, classic-rock-era fans took in the band’s anthemic Neil Young-meets-My Morning Jacket style of rock and roll and twangy americana (in the vein of The Band) with delight all night long.
Loud cheers went up when the first notes rang out for their older, southern jangle-pop numbers like “The Great Salt Lake,” “Weed Party,” and of course “Funeral,” Band of Horses’ best known song (which can still be heard and seen on a TV near you via a Ford advertisement).
Slower, more country-influenced tracks such as “Monsters” and the Rhodes piano-led “Marry Song” were executed to perfection and appreciated, but didn’t quite get the rousing reaction from fans that the louder numbers did. One audience member shouted “play ‘St. Augustine'” — a gorgeous Neil Young-ish tune from EATT— about half way through the show, to no avail.
But there was really not much to complain about as far as song choices are concerned, as the band played about 13 of the 20 songs found on both albums, plus a couple of rare cuts and covers. The latter included CCR’s “Effigy,” J.J. Cale’s bluesy “13 Days,” and Chicago’s “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” which ended this great night on a high note.
Ryan Monroe, Band of Horses’s enthusiastic keyboardist seemed to be having the most fun of the six members on stage, even giving the thumbs up to some rowdy fans in front of him early in the show. In fact, Monroe nearly stole the show with his rousing organ and piano solos, especially on the honkytonk encore opener “General Specific.” He also got the crowd into a clap-happy mood when he sang new song “Older,” which saw lead singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell on backup vocals, Bill Reynolds switching from electric to stand-up bass, and included a banjo to boot. It was a surprising highlight from the show, and fans on the Internet have claimed this beautiful number is an instant classic. Check out an earlier performance of it on YouTube. You might be inclined to agree.
Bridwell’s reverb-drenched voice was in top form throughout the nearly 90-minute set. And with opening act Tyler Ramsey doing double duty by joining the Band of Horses as a third guitarist, Bridwell can concentrate more on singing than playing. He never seemed like he was struggling with his dual role as lead vocalist and guitarist, though his pedal steel guitar work on the dreamy “First Song” wasn’t as bright and memorable as the recorded version.
In all, it was a highly charged and enjoyable set of rock and roll from a band that is emerging as one of the best bands in the indie rock realm. Live, Band of Horses pull off the transition from delicate folk and alt-country numbers to anthemic, stadium-sized jangle-pop with ease. In fact, if they keep touring and selling out club shows like they did in Boston, don’t be surprised if you see them in bigger arenas and stadiums next time around.
Note: Show openers included Cass McCombs and Tyler Ramsey