There’s a lot of love in the room tonight. Not only the very obvious love for tonight’s headliners from the crowd, but also love for two excellent support bands, not least from Band of Horses frontman, Ben Bridwell, himself. He describes Mojave 3 as one of his favourite bands of all time! Add to that the amount of loved-up couples in attendance, hugging and smooching as they watch the Seattle five-piece’s impassioned performance, and it’s safe to say love is in the air.
Band Of Horses have been just under the mainstream radar for some time now but, thanks to recent Radio 1 airplay and a Grammy nomination for their latest album, Infinite Arms, they play Birmingham tonight in front of well over 2000 people and look more than comfortable on a larger stage. Perhaps their recent support slot on Pearl Jam’s US tour has prepared them well, but Bridwell is now a confident focal point for his band. A band of solid, accomplished musicians at that.
If you’ve yet to witness Band Of Horses’ rich harmonies, imagine a mix of The Band, Neil Young, Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket and a little Flaming Lips and you’ll be in the right ballpark. They veer from soaring rockers like Is There A Ghost and NW Apt to beautifully laid back songs such as Monsters and personal fave, No-one’s Gonna Love You.
They say that, on this tour, they’ve been playing a cover song each night that they’ve never performed previously. An ambitious task and one which sees us treated to an incredible version of Neil Young’s “Powder Finger”. Most bands would struggle to get close to doing the song justice but Band Of Horses manage it masterfully. I think Mr Young would approve.
There are many highlights during the set but nothing quite comes close to the immensity of main set closer, The Funeral. After witnessing this tune live tonight I can honestly say it’s one of my favourite songs of all time. A beguiling mix of emotion, harmony and a hugely powerful vocal from Ben make The Funeral a shimmering example of how rock music can still pull fiercely at the heartstrings.
My only criticism tonight is that, visually, there’s not quite enough to hold the attention. A stage-wide backdrop flashes up images of landscapes which compliment the vastness of the band’s sound but the band members themselves remain, for the most part, fairly motionless throughout. I’m not expecting high kicks or Gene Simmons-like posturing but I did find my eye wandering around the venue as I listened to the music. It’s a small complaint though.
A 3-song encore finishes things off in sublime style and, at ten o’clock sharp, Band of Horses leave the stage. And the couples leave hand in hand with maybe just a little more love in their hearts.
Words & Photos — Steve Gerrard