Monday, November 12, 2007

Band of Horses--The Metro, Chicago, Illinois

Sunday could not have better. After watching a rejuvenated (for the time being, at least) Rex Grossman lead the Bears to a comeback victory over the Raiders, I went to check out Band of Horses. It seemed very appropriate because that’s just the music I was in the mood to hear. I’ve heard people describe Band of Horses as a darker version of the Shins. I don’t see it. Lyrical content aside, their music always puts me in a good mood or is what I often reach for when I’m already in a good mood. The simplicity of their music, mixed with Ben Bridwell’s reverb-heavy vocals just seem to generate great campfire-esque pop songs. So this concert was looking to be a great encore for the weekend. If there was a setback it was when I arrived at the venue and realized the battery was drained on my camera so we’re going to be sans pictures on this one. Sorry.

I couldn’t help but laugh when opening-act and current Horses’ guitarist Tyler Ramsey began playing. Not because he sucks because he doesn’t. In fact, he’s pretty good. But there has always been talk about Ben Bridwell sounding like Jim James and Ramsey might sound more like James than Bridwell does. Hell, he might sound more like James than James sounds like James. (I was hoping to not mention James once and I couldn’t even make it out of the second paragraph.) Ramsey wasn’t what I usually want out of an opening act but he kept the crowd’s attention moderately well with little guitar medleys and quiet songs.

The Drones came out firing next. They’re a noisy quartet from Australia and are starting to get a lot of pub. I really liked them at first glance. Loud bass and guitars with a guy screaming at the microphone in a very heavy Australian accent is always a good recipe. But halfway through their set they started to wear me down. It wasn’t just the fact that they were way too loud. No, the problem was each song lasting nearly 7 to 8 minutes with a completely arbitrary jamming out session to end each song. Their last album might be good but they need to clean it up live. (Speaking of which, Gapers Block recently had a really interesting/scary article about hearing loss that should be read by anyone who frequents concerts. In fact, on November 18 the Empty Bottle is hosting a benefit concert to raise awareness of noise induced hearing loss. Acts include Le Concorde, The Handcuffs, and The Its. According to the article, all of these bands have had some sort of experience with hearing loss so forgive them if they’re not in tune. The idea of having this issue addressed at a rock concert is rather laughable on its face but could be worth checking out. The first ones there will receive free earplugs. Those that get their late will have to pay $2 to be able to have hearing when they're 70.)

Watching Band of Horses get ready I noticed something pretty amusing. Ben Bridwell, Tyler Ramsey and a couple of the roadies look exactly the same. All were sporting the Jason Lee in Almost Famous look. While they were setting up it looked like that final scene in The Thomas Crown Affair when all those Pierce Brosnans are walking around and no one knows who is who. Although Bridwell was somewhat distinguishable by his token ball cap and tattoos and the fact that his beard is approaching Bin Laden status.

Before Band of Horses began, Bridwell warned us that he was sick and was going to do his best to make it through the show. He put up a rather noble effort. He apologized in advanced, asked how the Bears did, and started playing. They kicked off with “Monsters” from Everything All the Time and aside from his vocals being slightly flat they sounded great. There were some new faces in the band from the last time I saw them at what was their drunken spectacle at the 2006 Pitchfork Festival.

They were a couple of songs into the show before they covered anything from their latest album Cease to Begin. It’s a good album. I think it engulfs a lot of what made their first record extremely listenable. There’s nothing in their catalog that could be equated to rocket science rather they just put out albums comprised of solid rock songs. Works for me. I thought the highlights of the evening were “Detlef Schrempf” (sadly, they never got around to awesome B-side “Drazen Petrovic”) and “Lamb of the Lam (In the City)”. These are probably the two most country influenced songs on the new album. The only part of the show that dragged had nothing to do with the band. There was a couple standing in front of me who was completely nauseating. Making out the entire time, staring into each others eyes and singing “No One’s Gonna Love You”, and on and on and on. Everyone around me was gagging. Honestly, take that crap outside.

The show was short but sweet. Somewhere along the way they hit “The Funeral” and the masses were happy. Bridwell with his ever-present smile thanked the crowd numerous times and by the encore most had forgotten that he was even sick. Their concerts are a lot like their albums; nothing fancy, just a lot of good tunes.

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