Band Of Horses
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By Crystal Larsen
While I've attended many a show at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, Sept. 8 made for an experience unlike any other at the intimate Wilshire Boulevard venue. Fans who had likely planned to catch the Seattle-bred Band Of Horses on tour at much larger venues across the country with their would-be stage cohorts Kings Of Leon had to settle for squeezing into the 2,300-capacity theater. But it was spectacular.
Warming up the stage (and the crowd) for Band Of Horses was Built To Spill bassist Brett Netson's new solo project, which has yet to be named though it has been referred to as the Brett Netson Band or Brett Netson And The Hungry Ghost. "I wanted Snakes, but that's already taken," commented Netson. And as the band took off into what ended up being close to a 40-minute set, I felt like I was hearing an early '90s grunge act. But I liked it, and so did the crowd as there wasn't an open seat, bar stool or spot on the ground.
Following a quick set change, Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My" began to blare through the speakers and the crowd knew who they'd be seeing shortly. Rather than being greeted by all five members at once, casually taking the stage was frontman Ben Bridwell and guitarist Tyler Ramsey for an acoustic intro to "Ode To LRC," a track from the band's sophomore effort, 2007's Cease To Begin. Less than a minute in, the rest of the band took the stage — Creighton Barrett on drums, Ryan Monroe on keys and Bill Reynolds on bass — and the quintet danced through the rest of the song as the stage lights danced with them and images inspired by the artwork from their most recent release, the GRAMMY-nominated Infinite Arms, covered the screens behind the stage.
As the band powered through the rest of their set, it was hard to pick apart the crowd favorites as every song garnered a deafening reception. "Oh my God, you guys are awesome," declared Bridwell, who, along with the rest of the band, was clearly touched by the overwhelming support from the guests in attendance. The somber beginning to "Is There A Ghost" brought the crowd to a hush, but it didn't last long before everyone was jumping and banging their heads as if they'd all lost their minds. As the band drove into the familiar intro to "Laredo," Bridwell gave a nod to Ramsey, who carried the tune's spiraling guitar solo.
A highlight of the evening was their performance of the country tune "Marry Song," which spotlighted Ramsey on the lap steel. Next up was "Older," clearly a song enjoyed by all the couples in the house, and the on-point harmonizing at the end was enough to induce chills and lead anyone to draw comparisons to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Next was the foot-stomping "The General Specific," which gave me a whole new appreciation for the tambourine as Bridwell frantically beat to the rhythm of the song with a drum stick. Before leaving the stage (for the first time) the band played the ever popular "No One's Gonna Love You" and "The Funeral."
But that wasn't the end. The encore began as the main set did, with a beautiful acoustic performance of "Evening Kitchen" by Bridwell and Ramsey. The night culminated with a cover of Them Two's soul nugget "Am I A Good Man." That was the performance I wanted to wrap up and take home with me.
"Ode To LRC"
"Cigarettes, Wedding Bands"
"Is There A Ghost"
"Islands On The Coast"
"The General Specific"
"The End's Not Near" (the New Year cover)
"The Great Salt Lake"
"The First Song"
"No One's Gonna Love You"
"Am I A Good Man" (Them Two cover)
To catch Band Of Horses in a city near you, click here for tour dates.