Live review: Band of Horses @ the Ogden TheatreBy Kyle Wagner | September 6th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
“We took a little break from that weird-ass tour,” said Band of Horses singer Ben Bridwell, and that was the only reference made to the fact that here we were –- again –- at the Ogden Theatre Sunday night, listening to the alt rock band headlining instead of opening for Kings of Leon last week at Red Rocks, after KOL also “took a break” following Caleb Followill’s weird-ass display in Dallas in July.
Selfishly, some of us were OK with the change. As magical as a Red Rocks show is, it nonetheless becomes several more degrees of separation from the band –- a little less intimate, a lot bigger. This was one more chance to have the band to ourselves, and they clearly reveled in it, too, continually commenting on their fun level, pointing out friends and family and trying to keep in touch with the crowd’s mood.
They also worked at keeping up the energy level, with mixed success. So many of the band’s songs are the ones you throw on in the background for those melancholy days when you’re trying to get your own weird-ass life in order; too many of them in a row live and you start to question your role in the universe and why no one remembers there are those steps along the sides at the Ogden.
The band did start off slowly, though, and by the time they got to the fourth song, the title track off their fourth release, last year’s “Infinite Arms,” this side of the room was this close to hitting the snooze button. They had already sent out the popular singalong “The Funeral,” which brought things up a tad, but still, it’s not exactly rousing, so it was sweet relief to get “Is There a Ghost?” next, a version that truly showcased drummer Creighton Barrett’s bombastic skills.
B of H then went back and forth, balancing their thoughtful, contemplative tunes, backed by a cohesive sound often courtesy of guitarist Tyler Ramsey, with Bill Reynolds on bass. For every “Marry Song,” the country crooner with its sweet sentimentality that worked surprisingly well in this setting –- owing mostly to the hypnotic refrain –- there was an “Islands on the Coast,” a foot-stomper with strong, compelling vocals.
In fact, Bridwell’s voice reminds me of Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson on Valium –- and I mean that in a good way –- but what’s clearer live is that keyboardist Ryan Monroe, who also plays guitar on several songs, has a big say in the band’s vocal outcome, as well. Monroe is smooth oil to Bridwell’s Southern vinegar twang, and together they are one mellifluous mix.
Multi-instrumentalist Bridwell went crazy on the harmonica during a stirring “For Annabelle,” and “Older” is such a terrific country-rock-style tune, which here was pumped up with Monroe’s keyboards. Not surprisingly, the lively “The General Specific,” a hand-clapper from the 2007 release “Cease to Begin,” turned into a massive singalong, and the brilliant use of the big movie screen behind them –which showed various moving and still pictures throughout the show – was never better than for the easygoing ode to road trips, “Laredo,” during which black-and-white travel photographs flashed.
The band also displayed their sense of humor. “When we say this is the last song, we’re never telling you the truth,” Bridwell said as they left before the encore, and so blessedly we didn’t have to feel compelled to clap like idiots to bring them back, they just returned after a little break. They came back to slow it down a bit again, with a lovely version of “No One’s Gonna Love You” and then a haunting, harmonic “Detlef Schrempf,” before finishing it on a high note with the bluesy “Am I a Good Man,” a cover of the song by Them Two.
Openers? I don’t think so. K of L may have done B of H a big favor here.
Kyle Wagner is a regular contributor to Reverb and travel editor at The Denver Post.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.