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Band of Horses - Nashville
on 24 February 2014
Inevitably live albums can have a stop gap quality to them and seem like treading water. The introduction of the Unplugged format in the early 90s of taking electric songs and setting them in an acoustic context kickstarted a new approach. No reason then why Band of Horses should not attempt to utilise this mechanism. They have managed to produce great songs over some excellent albums particularly the great debut "Everything all the Time'. Although you also sense that they have somewhat stalled in recent years and this concert feels like the band reaching the end of particular journey No one can fault their choice of venue notably Nashville's beloved and historic Ryman Auditorium (where the Grand Ole Opry used to call home) during two nights in April 2013. The acoustics of the theatre sound great and the audience is suitably enthusiastic at the at the right time (although a tad noisy on the opener Marry Song").
Throughout the vocals of frontman Ben Bridwell are rock solid and the band provide great backing not least on a lovely piano driven version of "Factory" and the excellent country harmonies of "Older" and the a cappella version of the Neil Young sounding "Neighbor". This reviewer found the bands last studio album "Mirage Rock" drifting into that most dangerous of musical places namely the middle of the road. Yet the admittedly acoustic "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" from that album is now confirmed as a great song on Ryman, while a bare bones "Detlef Schremph" is genuinely lovely. Another "Cease to begin" song "No One's Gonna Love You" really does benefit of being tripped down of its Bach like organ and the rawer delivery by Bridewell gives the song a new focus. The same cannot be said of one the bands most famous songs "The Funeral". The hard rock ballad with its huge guitar backdrop is so distinctive that to treat it as slow moving piano lament distils it of energy. The jury is also out on "Wicked Gil" which will require repeated listens to reimagine it from it previous jagged rock existence. Nonetheless the balance sheet of this album is well in surplus and when their next studio outing is released let us hope that it will be cracker that they fully deserve.