Band of Horses lights up a rainy Sunday night
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Sunday night was an unusually busy one in Boston where rock is concerned. Japandroids were making their beautiful racket over at the Paradise near Boston University. Dave Matthews Band was continuing to do whatever it is they’re up to these days at the hockey-free TD Garden. T.T. The Bear’s Place and the Middle East were busy. Guitars live on.
At the House of Blues in Kenmore Square, Band of Horses, on tour in support of their latest record, Mirage Rock, swooped in, set off on a trip that explored the limits of harmony and sound, and two hours later, came back down to Earth no worse for wear while the crowd was rightfully blown away. It was a beautiful night of music and an exercise in how good a band can be by just being themselves.
The star of the show is Ben Bridwell’s voice, soaring above the collision of guitars and keys in a combination that has proven to be unique to them. It’s natural to think that Band of Horses’ sound was the result of some studio magic, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a dig as much as a statement of the band’s prowess at the mixing board. But the records are clearly capturing the band in its natural state, not the other way around.
The music jumps off the walls when they start churning. The vocal harmonies in “Factory” shimmer under the organ’s haunted strings, and Bridwell’s lead in “Islands on the Coast” drive a song that’s already heavy on guitars. The sound is enveloping, capturing the audience in a way I imagine Pink Floyd might have in their early 1970s heyday.
With such a grand, ethereal presence, it was refreshing to see them cutting loose while maintaining their spacey sound. Bridwell joked before he and Tyler Ramsey started the show that “there’s no ‘Funeral’ tonight, sorry,” and later was laughing in between verses of “Laredo” without giving away any of the song’s punch. I’d seen the band before, but only in an opening setting, and this dose of their personality had been missing. In their own world and their own stage, they felt comfortable enough to be themselves.
They don’t jam or stretch out songs in that traditional touring rock band sense, but they do take a few liberties with their songs, casting different arrangements and different pacing. “Ode to LRC” began with just Bridwell and Ramsey on guitars, quietly moving through the songs first verse before the rest of the band crashed in after the first chorus. “The Great Salt Lake” got a heavier treatement than it gets on their debut Everything All the Time, while “Knock Knock” felt looser and more open than it does on Mirage Rock.
At the end of the night, “The Funeral” did make an appearance, one of those classic songs that become a hit without really being a “hit,” closing out the main set. And following a quick encore, Band of Horses were off the stage, letting the Sunday night crowd filter out into the rain and on with their lives. But if it was just another night for a band winding through the northeast after returning from a recent European tour, they didn’t show it. And from the floor, it certainly didn’t feel like just another Sunday night.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com