Band of Horses, Koko, London

 

They're undisputed champions of the blogosphere, critical darlings of unimpeachable status and revered as gods by all discerning music fans, so why have Band of Horses just given such a lacklustre show?

Tonight is, at best, a proficient performance. It's tight, it's professional, and it sounds exactly the same as it does on record. It is also terribly, disappointingly flat. There's no flair or improvisation, just consistent, machine-tooled replication, performed by a near-static band.

Bands like this, who are wholeheartedly glad to be given their chance, can end up going one of two ways live. They'll never deliver a bum show, and so they'll either end up transcending themselves and booming out something special, or they'll make like BOH do tonight and give everything but the je ne sais quoi for which we're all crying out.

As for the music itself, well, it's impeccable. No-one does this kind of woozy, stirring Americana quite as well as Band of Horses. It's wonderfully textured, thoughtful songwriting, complemented by a big secret weapon in the form of singer Ben Bridwell's ethereal foghorn of a falsetto. It's the kind of material that demands a much bigger-hearted performance.

There's a scattering of new material in the set, and it's diverting rather than compelling, though it's received well enough. In fairness, the band does perk up towards the end. One of the guitarists, after an hour without activity, suddenly sets his legs a bit wider apart for the encore, and very nearly starts to wail. And then, amazingly, for a few scant minutes, they're having a bit of a thrash and showing a bit of gumption. It's invigorating, but it shows what we've been missing. If they'd attacked all their songs like they attacked the final one, it could have been very special indeed.

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