For a casual Band of Horses fan, waiting all the way until the encore to hear hits such as The Funeral and No One’s Gonna Love You might feel like a weakening bladder holding three plastic pint pots of O2 Academy lager until you’ve got all the way home. While I don’t consider myself ‘Mr Band of Horses‘, I found the anticipation much more enjoyable.
A strong sense of their U.S. nationality struck me early on in the gig; whilst their live performances would be deemed a woodsy blend of midtempo rock, I found some calmer elements that stayed on the right side of Country. A Dolly Parton sense of emotional desperation in Ben Bridwell’s vocals at times contributed to this, but most of all the vastness of their musical material; playing many more older songs than expected, reflected the exploded scale and size of the U.S. to me.
Bridwell performed as a leader should; shouldering the collective song-writing talents of the band, communicating their varying ideas with natural passion and heart-rendering emotion, but most importantly the beautiful simplicity of their sound was never at any moment made too obvious by the accompanying players.
Thematically, the backdrop images of natural beauty exemplified why Band of Horses were able to pack the rafters at Leeds O2 Academy. Their sound is so untouched by industrial, commercial concepts of trend and market, they came across like a live, musical version of the BBC’s Human Planet. Their grasp of rhythm and colour (in musical terms) is matched only in nature itself.
The relief and indulgence of the encore allowed superbly chilling live performances of The Funeral and No One’s Gonna Love You to be heard nowhere near the background of an American TV drama. However not before the highlight of the gig; a stripped, delicate duet to begin their encore the reaffirmed our faith that ‘man’ was not only capable of vulgarity in comparison to nature – that with the right inspiration we too are capable of producing something beautiful.
Leeds O2 Academy 31st Jan 2011