Band of Horses, following up on its successful Black Cat show last year around this time, returned last Friday to play a late-night gig at the 9:30 Club. The band is signed to Sub Pop Records and is on tour to promote its second album, Cease to Begin.
To make it to the headliners, fans waited through an abysmal opening act, the Drones, which seemed to revel in every 70s-rock cliché in all the wrong ways. Guttural, indecipherable lyrics mixed with predictable guitar licks made for a stale and almost unbearably long set for the Australian act. Conversation stalled, and applause was hesitant. Most people just gathered around the bar and waited for Horses to take the stage.The pre-opening opening act, the Tyler Ramsey Late Show, was quite talented and much more in line with the progressive-rock crowd. Ramsey’s one-man-band acoustic style was reminiscent of guitar master Leo Kottke, while his folksy lyrics and melodies brought to mind Sam Beam of Iron & Wine. Unfortunately, Ramsey crooned to a nearly empty room and was given only 15 minutes to play.
Just after midnight, Band of Horses appeared and immediately started in on its new material, opening with “There Is a Ghost in My House” from Cease to Begin. It also managed to cover a good deal of 2005’s Everything All the Time, including “The Funeral,” one of the band’s biggest crowd pleasers.
Band of Horses’ sound is best described as folk-infused rock, built from brash melodies driven by loud electric guitar and vocals; think My Morning Jacket meets the Shins. Lead singer Ben Bridwell sings in the high-note tradition of Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, and his vocal style (not to mention his chest-length beard) brings to mind My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James.
Friday night’s set was short and sweet and included—as described by Bridwell—one “fake encore,” which kept the show’s running time to just over an hour. But unlike the band’s 2006 show at the Black Cat, which featured several covers, Band of Horses had enough of its own material to fill out an original set list. The audience was thrilled.