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Review Thu Feb 20 2014
I've been a Band of Horses fan for a long time. So long, in fact, that the band's sound has grown synonymously with my own life, as I've been listening since the release of their sophomore album, Cease to Begin, back in 2007. I was immediately captivated by song "No One's Gonna Love You": the unique vocals of lead singer Ben Bridwell, the dreamy yet deliberate guitar backing, the poetic lyrics. They poured their talent into each of their songs as they did this one, and I was hooked.
So, I kept following, and kept learning. I listened through 2010's Infinite Arms, to 2012's Mirage Rock, and reverted back to a listen of their first album released in 2006, Everything All The Time. One thing they've always kept about them is an egregious, youthful sound that carries their appeal far. Their music is always fresh and inventive, infused with Americana rock flair all the while.
I've seen them three times before yesterday evening; once, at festival Farm Aid three years back, once at the Riviera Theatre in October of 2010, and once at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in the summer of 2012. All three concerts were extremely magical, and I've craved to see them another time. As their sound is extremely full-bodied, I was ecstatic to learn that their tour was going to be an all-acoustic set featuring the full band. I wondered how the moving "The First Song" would translate in such a capacity, or how high-octane songs like "Is There A Ghost" could possibly hold the same weight. However, the show was able to completely transform old styles of their recorded ballads, and morph them to fit the acoustic setting perfectly.
The stage was arranged casually, like it was crafted to look like the basement of your childhood home. Antique lamps adorned the stage, with a bottle of red wine delicately perched on a small table in front of one of the mic areas. Chairs, microphones, and instruments lined the stage, awaiting the full band to emerge and begin the set. Immediately, the group began a powerhouse show.
Playing the closing track off of their primary album, "St. Augustine," Ben emerged to sing a solo rendition of the song that was simply exquisite, as the golden spotlight shined down upon him and the audience watched in a strict reverence. He was joined gradually by members of the group, until the entire band was represented as they sat in the "makeshift basement" concert space. It felt comfortable, like we were joining them for an intimate jam session where only those close to the band were invited.
As the set progressed and the band eased into a stronger sense of comfort, seemingly so did the slightly raucous crowd. Despite this, the energy of the crowd as a whole allowed the band to engage in casual, hilarious banter with members of the audience who would yell out a random comment from time to time, which kept the energy building throughout the entire set.
Highlights of the show included the most reworked tunes in a live setting, including the sweet "Laredo," stunning "The Funeral," and the Americana alt-country version of "Weed Party." The group truly outdid themselves in preparing and adjusting their music in order to make it sound absolutely perfect in a live setting, and that versatility is what allows the group's musical identity to truly shine amongst the rest.