Band of Horses, O2 Academy Brixton, London
Wednesday 09 February 2011
A little more than eight months after their third album, Infinite Arms, was released, Band of Horses take the stage at Brixton Academy to a vocal reception from a packed house. In seven years of existence, the band has had a staggering 15 different members, but as the Carolina five-piece launch into their set, you'd never guess that only lead singer, Ben Bridwell, has been a constant: they feel like old friends, both to each other and to their fans.
Bridwell, unquestionably the group's fulcrum, and guitarist/ vocalist Tyler Ramsey stride on to the Academy stage and purr through the intimate "Evening Kitchen", a terrific, harmony-laced track from Infinite Arms. It's warmly received, but the heat rises when the rest of the group arrives. Crashing into the percussive "NW Apt.", the band goes from sweet Southern charm to fierce and pugnacious in a heartbeat, and the crowd love it.
A shame, then, that after two more superb songs there's a blip; "Islands on the Coast" is off-tempo and off-colour, and the mood noticeably sags: even the fabulous projections of time-lapse photography can't distract from it.
Seconds into the next song – the infectious "Laredo" – the audience is back onside. Yet following a quality quintet of tracks, there's another break, and another, as the band plays a Mojave 3 song with the group's frontman, Neil Halstead, then a Pavement cover: both feel superfluous. A soothing version of "No-One's Gonna Love You" splits the two, but the momentum stutters.
Then comes the crescendo. Showing off a magnificent back-catalogue, the group throws itself into full-force mode, with a trio of tracks culminating in "The Funeral", an epic rocker and the band's most famous tune. An excellent three-song encore follows. A gruelling tour schedule perhaps stopped Band of Horses from delivering a truly classic show tonight, but their talent is undeniable.
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