Whether it was a member of the older crowd reliving their glory days, or a younger person living them the first time around, everyone at the Band of Horses show Friday night was ecstatic to see the South Carolina-based alternative outfit return to Arizona.
It had been at least four or five years since the band had last been in the state, lead singer Ben Bridwell said.
Band of Horses was supported by Howlin’ Rain, a rock band from San Francisco with a vintage sound and what looks like an unofficial hair length requirement (shoulder-length or he’s out of the band).
Lead singer Ethan Miller came out onstage in a white, embellished blazer, but even with little quirks like that, the group’s performance was anything but showy.
In fact, it was impossible to ignore that the five-piece band was incredibly technically accomplished, and it didn’t seem to matter to Miller which direction he was facing as long as he was singing.
The passion in his voice was hard to ignore, even if he did spend entire songs facing the artfully designed nighttime forest backdrop put in place for the headline set.
Moreover, Miller set his band apart from a lot of other alternative rock groups who sing about tragedy, but have never experienced it. It was apparent in his growl that he had been around the block once or twice. Either that, or he was an incredible actor.
Just as the temperature was beginning to climb in the Marquee Theatre, and the concrete floor became sticky with spilled drinks, Band of Horses came onstage, spawning several minutes of enthusiastic shrieks.
The group’s stage presence was nearly opposite to its openers, with whom the only shared trait was the quality of their lead singers’ voices. Whereas the guys of Howlin’ Rain were intent on its work, Band of Horses was laidback and joked around with one another.
Bridwell sat himself down at his keyboard and looked deceptively solemn for a moment, before the band started a crazy, high-energy tune. It set the tone for the vast majority of the set, which included maybe a handful of ballads, interspersed between one grungy track to the next, like the single off of the band’s newest album, “Mirage Rock,” called “Knock Knock.”
The two-hour set traversed all of the blurry lines of the genre, incorporating folk, country and synth-based rock elements into the set list.
Band of Horses sent its audience members dancing across the floor during certain songs, before tugging at their heartstrings with the arena-ready rock ballad, “The Funeral.”
And, of course, Band of Horses didn’t disappoint when it came to the encore performance, regardless of Bridwell’s offhand joke about skipping that part of the show altogether. It started with a crowd favorite off of its sophomore album, “The General Specific,” and then turned the intensity up until Bridwell had thrown himself into the audience and the band had worked everyone into a veritable frenzy.
For a band whose studio-recorded music plays relatively calmly, Band of Horses delivered a loud and epic live performance, which featured its talented musicians well. It looks as though Bridwell and his band are taking the advice printed on Bridwell’s shirt that night: “Stop wasting time. It can’t be recycled.”
Their Tempe show was certainly no waste of time. It was worth every moment.
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