Band of Horses - Hammersmith Apollo, London 20/11/12
"This is the last night of our tour…and I can't think of anywhere else I'd want it to be" expresses tearful frontman Ben Bridwell, as Band of Horses charm their way into the crowd's approval with a balance of either country induced rock or… rock engulfed country music. There's something about Band of Horses (more so live) that, despite differences in walks of life and different tastes, makes you feel tranquil and safe; like a close relative or a part of the family. Although Subpop, Seattle flavoured followings were bound tight with the band's first two albums Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin, their current activity in the past two years with Columbia has soldered success on both sides of the pond, including the boast of an Grammy nominated album in 2012.
There's an absence of pretentious walk on music, just an angelic single spotlight gazing upon the presence of Tyler Ramsey and his guitar. A stage of denim shirts and unkempt facial hair rise to the audience as Ben Bridwell violently embraces his harmonica to his lips and forces out each drop of metallic air left deep in his tobacco stained alveoli into the instrument. The band's faceless silhouettes decorate the seasonal, rural backdrop, as the stage becomes coloured with an autumnal orange during Knock Knock then time lapses through to a melancholic winter blue. I was half expecting the stage to be draped in a flood of stars and stripes with giant confetti guns and 'GOD BLESS AMERICA' projected onto the backdrop. Although there was an abnormally large, patriotic-looking deer roaming across the drop back at the beginning of the set…
The band embody the type of intrusive claustrophobia in small town America where everybody knows everybody's business. Where there's a barber that cuts everyone's hair and one school and if you don't like it then you can just leave. There's no fuss.
Ben Bridwell takes the biscuit for natural born frontmen. He tattoos authority onto the forearm of the venue with the repetitive responses to the crowd; even if he constantly and quite irritatingly slams his baseball hat on the floor in an emotive outpour…only to bend down and put it pop it back onto his skull almost immediately after. He's even left at one point swigging from a bottle of red wine, like a drunken friend staggering in the living room and wailing along to 'No Woman, No Cry' when everyone's already left the party.
As lazy as it sounds, Band of Horses make genuine, heartfelt music. It's like their celebrating Christmas around the clock. Their technique and precision can't be faulted and the admiration and sense of humour that's shared amongst the crowd creates a stunning set shared in a brilliant venue.