Simple, soulful and Southern-fried. Yeehaa!
Few could accuse Benjamin Bridwell of lacking passion. With his bulging temple veins ready to pop and fingers twisting his sweat-sodden t-shirt into the waistband of his slacks, he’s every inch the tortured soul as his vocals bathe the Academy in liquid honey.
Whether it be hugging his guitar tight to his chest, parping into a blow organ as his tattooed neck looks set to explode, or strapped to his pedal steel, he looks wrapped in grief and aching for some respite from the burden that hangs heavy in his heart.
Only in between songs does his mood lighten, with a twinkle in his eye and the occasional ‘woooop, yeah’, you sense he and his rag-tag bunch of hairy South Carolinans are ecstatic at their ascent to big league alt-rock heroes.
Indeed, a quick scan of the room reveals many are already worshipping at their altar with a good few more converted by tonight’s remarkable offering. The highlights – most of which come from latest Sub Pop offering Cease To Begin – are plentiful; not least the way in which they create such a terrific racket all the while managing to convey an effortless aura of cool.
Save for Bridwell, the remaining Horses remain near-motionless for the hour-plus show, with only the ever expanding grin of ginger hairball Ryan Monroe giving any sign they’re actually awake.
Musically, there’s very little you’ve probably not heard before. Is There A Ghost, with its galloping guitar lines and Bridwell vocal soar, could quite easily have slipped off My Morning Jacket‘s It Still Moves – think of it as a little brother to One Big Holiday.
The Tyler Ramsey led-Ode to LRC has a rickety, ramshackle charm which is reminiscent of On The Beach‘s out-of-it drunken stumble.
While No One’s Gonna Love You is the heartbreak anthem Wayne Coyne forgot to pen as he was too busy constructing spaceships out of washing up bottles in his backyard. But to criticise BoH for their lack of originality is to miss the point; they’re songs which comfort and sound instant; ones which you feel snug and safe with immediately. Fireplace rock.
Tonight, they road test several newies too. There’s no deviation from the trusted path – just solid, Americana to soothe the soul.
Undoubted standout arrives in the form of Detlef Schrempf, with Bridwell close to welling up as he intones, ‘My eyes can’t look at you any other way, Any other way, any other way….’ It’s genuinely moving stuff.
And as they exit to unanimous devotion there’s a sense that though tonight was first-rate Band Of Horses‘ best is still to come. And for that, Bridwell, and his devotees, should be very excited.