Review and Photos by Brian Mullowney
Good music can take you to a place or time; past or present, here or there. It evokes emotions like love and longing, hope and despair. Band of Horses has a knack for timeless songwriting, call it Americana or Southern Rock, Ben Bridwell and Co create the perfect road trip soundtrack with gas stomping anthems and brake pumping anti-ballads. Ben Bridwell’s voice (think Sub Pop labelmates Jamer Mercer of The Shins and Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold) bends but doesn’t break, buoyed by reverb drenched guitars and crashing drums.
On Monday night at the Ogden, as the Denver faithful anticipated the storm of the century (or the spring), BOH displayed onstage growth and comfort, no doubt stemming from the newfound continuity of the band’s lineup. Not known as a great live band before, BOH evolved from a Bridwell centered project, as he is the only member to have contributed to all four albums, beginning with the woodsy Everything All the Time, the dreamy Cease to Begin and finally finding a true group identity on the Grammy winning Infinite Arms. Guitarist Tyler Ramsay and keyboardist Ryan Monroe have serious songwriting chops, with both releasing individuals efforts in past years. Bassist Bill Reynolds is a low key as his effortless strumming and drummer Creighton Barrett is no slouch on the skins. As they promote the newly released Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin) produced Mirage Rock. It’s what fans have come to expect and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
As my friend Dave and I toasted his birthday with PBR tall boys and Cuervo shots, BOH came out committed to rock. For those expecting a mellow evening, they’d have to wait. Cuts like “Factory” and “Is There a Ghost” set the tone; even the normally subdued tracks would be played with venom and volume. Newer tracks such as the poppy “Knock Knock” were greeted warmly as the crowd bopped along. The quintet spent little time chatting as they churned through songs spanning the entire discography. A grimy version “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” was a evening highlight with the near capacity Ogden singing the chorus in unison “as they lied, as they lied!”
Playing for nearly two hours, BOH saved the best for last. Upon returning for the obligatory encore, Bridwell passed the mic to Monroe, who acknowledged his family in the crowd, before manning the organ and crooning the slow jam “Older.” The latter part of the evening was made for the sentimental as the now Charleston, SC-based group subbed keyboards for guitars as they slid into the haunting mega hit “The Funeral,” giving the expectant crowd exactly what they wanted. A personal favorite “Evening Kitchen,” written by Ramsay, created a dreamland as it tells a story and paints a picture of heartbreak.
With the nature of the music industry having becoming so widespread and our insistence on categorizing bands with terms like “indie, “alt-country” and the like, Band of Horses has found a recipe for success, writing and performing with the energy of an everyman’s band. Unlike the “blizzard” that Denver newscasters obviously overhyped, Band of Horses rolled into the Mile High City under the radar and left riding high. Reluctant to leave for the snow flurries that awaited, a united crowd scattered into the frigid all warm and toasty on the inside.