Bozhe moyi, Tumblr has much to answer for! As well as the proliferation of nebula images (good) and Khloe Kardashian face GIFS (bad); seapunk (good) and anorexia pictures (bad), Community fansites (good) and bathetic (it’s a word, pimps) photos of handwritten notes of WHY ME? bratness (bad)… Tumblr is also partly responsible for the beautiful choice of seapunk-inspired landscape imagery to accompany Mirage Rock, an astonishingly cheerful 4th album from Band of Horses.
And it’s the album we came to see live at Academy 2 in Manchester – along with a few of the classics. The band have really thought about its audience tonight, with a rolling, projected backdrop of giant black and white, sepia toned and pastel wash videos of rolling landscapes, swirling night skies and city streets; each one perfectly accompanying each song in the set. It’s the best use of projection I’ve seen at a gig: it’s truly artful, unpretentious, and simple.* Beginning with On My Way Back Home before smiling, and with what we definitely heard was a full on RAWK call, lead most defiantly into the sunshine folk-rock of Knock Knock (this theme of Seattle roots inspired guitarwork is repeated from Ode to LRC through to The Funeral, and in BOTH ENCORES, see below for details) followed quickly by fan favourite, Laredo, a lilting song that encapsulates life on the road on a slow bus through the state lines at night. You can guess the projection they used for that one.
Tonight felt like a true music show – one for the fans and the newbies; with generous helpings of audience banter, laughter and smiles all round. Band of Horses are a sincere band, and its so, so refreshing. It’s an experience you don’t forget in a while. Perhaps that’s why this show was so good: they’re enjoying it, so we of course we are too. Again, refreshing. When you hear Ben Bridwell licking his beard ever so slightly because he can’t sing loud enough – that’s the stuff that makes fans less self-conscious (massively epidemic within Manchester gig culture these days). Two encores is sure to do that too.
Here’s the most majestic setlist I’ve seen in a while.
On My Way Back Home
Knock Knock – HIGHLIGHT
The Great Salt Lake
Islands on the Coast
Is There a Ghost – HIGHLIGHT
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands – HIGHLIGHT
Dumpster World – HIGHLIGHT
Ode to LRC – HIGHLIGHT
No One’s Gonna Love You – HIGHLIGHT
Everything’s Gonna Be Undone
Infinite Arms – HIGHLIGHT
Leaving in the Morning (Cover) – HIGHLIGHT
A Little Biblical
The General Specific – HIGHLIGHT
BoH’s successful first Sub Pop albums are testament to the label’s persevering good taste and clearly well-honed A&R staff for spotting them in the beginning… an obvious statement really. But it wouldn’t be right to let a gig review exist out of context of what has otherwise been a considerably weird-ass year for Band of Horses, who are most likely accustomed to the Pitchork glamour of indie stardom. Of course, the cumulative success of Cease to Begin and its tracks’ inclusions within a variety of popular TV series, as well as the few trendsetters who create the onslaught of emotional 14 and 24 year olds alike sharing Band of Horses lyrics online surely paved the way for a ruuuusssssshhhhhh of gold discs this year shortly after Mirage Rock’s release….right? Hells no, actually. And it was a right shame too. Reviewers and writers seem to have finally taken issue with the fourth album’s ‘commerical’ sound (listen to the Billboard top 20 and come back to me, yeah?!), not in the least consumed in inverse snobbery following news it was coming from the books of big boy label Columbia.
OH WELL boo hoo and screw the doubters. They’re awesome live. And I reckon, that’s what counts…
If I was to give this gig a rating (As a rule I never, unless paid to do it, numerically rate gigs – live music is either: great & changes your life, good & memorable, or it’s just shite) then I’d give it 9 Tumblrs our of 10 – the minus one is for the blog that’s got a Khloe Kardashian GIF.
*The last time I felt the artful effects of projection at a gig was somehow skipping towards the Pyramid Stage for Jack Johnson’s deliriously hypnotic 3-minute loops of crashing sea wave projections during his 30 minute set; I was laughing at the really obvious looping and sunbathing in the baked grass. This was after drinking special tea, or something, with ‘friends’ in The Healing Fields in 2010 earlier that morning…. Ahhh, precious memories.