Band of Horses at Shepherd’s Bush EmpireCultureMusicLive music
It’s been precisely ten years since Band of Horses released their stellar debut Everything All the Time and, to give credit where credit is due, not much has changed since then. Whereas other large scale proponents of the southern rock genre such as Kings of Leon have swung towards a more pop-orientated focus, Band of Horses have stuck admirably to their guns, much to the delight of their fans who turned out in droves to see them play the newly refurbished Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night.
Having been relentlessly touring on the back of their fifth long player Why Are You OK, Band of Horses looked remarkably unjaded, albeit ten minutes late, when they took to the stage. Trucker caps aplenty, they got straight on with it, launching into the seesawing chords of Cigarettes, Wedding Bands. Frontman and vocalist Ben Bridwell seemed to begin sweating almost immediately, busting nearly every blood vessel he could get his hands on as he took us straight into first album classic The Great Salt Lake. Band of Horses seem to have the rare talent of finding a melody almost anywhere, with short choppy verses juxtaposed seamlessly with thudding drop-beat drumming and harmonies. The Empire isn’t the world’s biggest venue, but Bridwell and co made it seem like a stadium last night, playing rock anthem after rock anthem.
Before you could blink, the tempo was briefly slowed by the ethereal No One’s Gonna Love You. “Anything that makes you smile,” Bridwell crowed, but he didn’t have to as everyone in the audience had been smiling for quite some time. The Funeral followed soon after, that classic four-note intro drawing wild cheers from the assembled punters. Quite rightly too – if any number demonstrated Band of Horses’ ability to write and play rock music, it’s this one. The distortion-charged chorus exploded outwards, sounding like a chandelier crashing into lots of other more expensive chandeliers, and the crowd went mad for it. Is There a Ghost was verging on wild, and, somewhat mercifully, was the end of a 22-track set.
Band of Horses just love playing music. While relentless touring seems to dilute the magic of playing live, these American rockers clearly didn’t get the memo and were all smiles and modesty throughout. Their songs and their showmanship deserve bigger stages than the Empire. Whether or not they’ll get them remains to be seen.
Photos: Guifré de Peray
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