Friday, May 14th, 2010
Band Of Horses at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangPeople seemed generally disappointed on Tuesday when I answered their queries of, “so what are you doing for your birthday?” with “having sushi, watching TV and editing photos”. Apparently the correct answer was some permutation of “getting loaded and causing shit” but fact was, I had been out a lot in the past few days and a quiet night at home getting caught up on whatever sounded like a great plan. It would have taken a lot to get me to abandon that plan.
Something like a last-minute, surprise show from Band Of Horses.
The band were in town, enjoying a day off from their tour supporting Pearl Jam in Buffalo the night before and doing press for their forthcoming album Infinite Arms when the opportunity arose to insert themselves into the weekly free Nu Music Nite series at the ‘Shoe. After the decision was made and thanks to the marvels of modern mobile and social technology, I got word of the show around 7:45PM, a decision that those two episodes of The Pacific would keep at least another night was made by 7:47PM and I was one of just a few people at the Horseshoe by 8:30PM when the doors opened. This guaranteed a front-row spot but also meant waiting through the other bands on the bill, an experience that’s not really worth recounting. Band Of Horses were due to start at or around 11:15PM and by 10:30 or so, coincidentally just about the time that people who’d opted to stay home and watch Lost would have been able to get in gear, the ‘Shoe was full to an extent befitting the specialness of the occasion.
I’d only seen Band Of Horses live twice before, circa their debut Everything All The Time at SxSW 2006 and again a few months later at Lee’s Palace. What I remembered most about the Lee’s show was that while the show sounded marvelous, it wasn’t the most energetic affair what with frontman Ben Bridwell spending most of the show seated at the pedal steel. Well with no steel guitar on hand this night – all of their equipment was begged and borrowed – Bridwell would have to stand on his own legs and this would have to be a more physically engaging show. To say the least. Bridwell and bandmates rolled out on stage around 11:30, greeted by a packed house – congratulations Toronto, you’re capable of hustling when you need to – and, after prefacing their set with the disclaimer of, “we never do this”, put on as tremendous a display of flying by the seat of your pants as you’ll ever see.
Understand that Band Of Horses, by indie rock standards, are getting pretty big – and with Infinite Arms as their major label debut, can probably expect to just get bigger – so performing in a small bar setting is probably a rare opportunity for them, and as far as cutting loose and having a good time goes, they didn’t squander it – it was hard to gauge who had the bigger grins on their faces, the audience or the band. Unequipped to properly recreate their more atmospheric side – as stated, Bridwell was steel-less and, after breaking a number of strings, more often than not guitar-less, and Ryan Monroe was on six-string duty rather than keyboards – they opted to indulge their more raucous side, which doesn’t get to rear its head on record all that often. And any concerns about Bridwell’s willingness to move around and play frontman were wholly unfounded – the man was all over the stage, singing to the audience, singing to the sky (or ceiling, whatever), and proving without a doubt that there was nothing wrong with his legs.
Unsurprisingly, a number of tunes from Infinite Arms were previewed and while some have fairly criticized the album as being overly soft around the edges, they certainly toughened them up this time out. A few more familiar songs from Cease To Begin and handful of well-chosen covers – Gram Parsons’ “Song For You” and head-spinning encore of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” among them – filled out the hour-long set. They even thoughfully snuck in a “Happy birthday” into the set – ostensibly for drummer Creighton Barrett, but I just imagined it was for me. Not that they needed to – simply showing up and playing a fantastic set for my impromptu 35th birthday party was plenty. Though handing out the beer from their rider to the audience at show’s end was a nice touch. There should always be loot bags.
NOW, eye and Panic Manual all made it to the ‘Shoe in time for the show but the weeklies didn’t seem to have a great time, for some reason. Band Of Horses return for the show at the Toronto Island Concert on June 19 – expect them to play the “majestic” angle at that show. Infinite Arms is out on Tuesday.
Photos: Band Of Horses @ The Horseshoe – May 11, 2010
MP3: Band Of Horses – “Factory”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “Is There A Ghost”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “The Great Salt Lake”
MP3: Band Of Horses – “The Funeral”
Video: Band Of Horses – “NW Apartment”
Video: Band Of Horses – “Compliments”
Video: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Video: Band Of Horses – “Is There A Ghost”
Video: Band Of Horses – “The Great Salt Lake”
Video: Band Of Horses – “The Funeral”
Stream: Band Of Horses / Infinite Arms
MySpace: Band Of Horses
Video: Beach House / Teen Dream
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