A few months ago, when I got an email that Band of Horses were going to be playing two shows (one acoustic, one electric) at the Manhattan Center, and that there would be a fan presale at 10am the next day, I set an alarm. I bought acoustic tickets, having already seen them plugged in twice this year at House of Vans and Global Festival. That afternoon at 4:30, I got an email claiming that because I was on their fan list, I could purchase a two-show pass. For twelve dollars more, I could go to both shows and get a limited edition poster? I clicked "order" without even blinking.
My seats for the acoustic show were in the second row. Unfortunately, they were all the way to the right, next to a security guard watching a very popular side door to a well-lit hallway. I wasn't happy that as a fan, I was banished to this zone, especially having to listen to the majority of the sound from a speaker smaller than ones at my parents' house. I don't know if it sounded better for the people in the center, but I assume it did.
"Don't worry. It's not going to be very serious. At times it's going to be repulsively off," warned Ben Bridwell as the band took the stage. They opened with "On My Way Back Home," a tune that was played by request at House of Vans, and followed that with "Marry Song." "Here's the first time we ever tried this one like this. Should be interesting," Bridwell offered before "Dilly." "Long Vows" started with a boogie-woogie intro, and "Shut-In Tourist" had some wonderful vocal harmonies. The band then retreated to the wings, leaving Bridwell alone. "Guess I'll do this one by myself," he joked. Introducing "St. Augustine" he said, "This will be one of two sacred cows we massacre tonight. I've never played this before in my life. This is so weird." Under his breath, "Jesus." He fumbled for a couple of lyrics, but brought it all together nicely. Tyler Ramsey took his seat stage left, and whispered into the mic, "That was really pretty." The repartee between the two was quite funny: "Good Luck." "You too, buddy." They tackled their duet "Evening Kitchen" and then performed a lovely "No One's Gonna Love You." I almost wanna hear it that way all the time now, minus the squawking of the security guard's walkie and the loud catcalls from some guy in the crowd (If you have the ability to whistle really loudly, I assure you, you are the only person who's impressed by that.). I also think the duo songs were my favorites of the night. Drums are still drums and electric bass is still electric bass during an acoustic show, and they buried a lot of the nuances.
I'd seen Band of Horses play Hammerstein last year, and now they were on that massive stage again. This time they made it very known that they were playing all their songs. "It's way overindulgent and kinda silly, but why not? We're gonna take a little break in the middle, so you can go throw a piss or smoke or whatever," said Bridwell. I don't know that I've ever thrown a piss, but I guess it means peeing really quickly, lines be damned, because the set break was only 7 minutes.
I'm not going to give a play-by-play of the electric show, but I will say I preferred set one. "The Great Salt Lake" featured Bridwell teasing Ace of Base, "Window Blues" finished with an impromptu ditty about wasting time when they still had so many songs to play, and set-closer "The Funeral" was played for the second time of the night. The exciting centerpiece was a six-song chain, linked together by Bridwell beckoning his bandmates to continue playing between the songs. "Compliments" was paired with rapidly morphing images of snow-capped mountains and evergreen trees, a captivating addition to their ever-changing background video.
See Band of Horses live. Bridwell has an amazing voice, the harmonies are pitch-perfect, the banter is funny, and they play with an exuberance rarely matched by other indie bands today. Continuing tonight, I'm spending three weeks watching Deer Tick play their four-album catalog. Band of Horses almost got it done in one night.
BAND OF HORSES - 12.11.12 - MANHATTAN CENTER
ACOUSTIC SET (1 hour, 10 minutes) -
On My Way Back Home / Marry Song / Dilly / Long Vows / Shut-In Tourist / St. Augustine / Evening Kitchen / No One's Gonna Love You / Neighbor / Detlef Schrempf / How to Live / Lamb on the Lam (in the City) / Simple Man / Slow Cruel Hands of Time / That's All (tease) / Wicked Gil / The Funeral / The General Specific
ELECTRIC SET ONE (1 hour, 19 minutes) -
For Annabelle > The First Song / Electric Music / Part One / Older / A Little Biblical / Weed Party / The Great Salt Lake > All That She Wants (tease) > The Great Salt Lake / Blue Beard > Compliments > Dumpster World > Cigarettes, Wedding Bands > Factory > Knock Knock / Window Blues > Just Filling Time* / Laredo / Ode to LRC / The Funeral
ELECTRIC SET TWO (46 minutes) -
Our Swords / Tyler Ramsey Solo* / Everything's Gonna Be Undone / No One's Gonna Love You > NW Apt. / Feud / Is There a Ghost / Heartbreak on the 101 / Infinite Arms / I Go to the Barn Because I Like The > Monsters > Neighbor
JASON LYTLE - 12.11.12 - HAMMERSTEIN BALLROOM (32 minutes, 27 seconds)
I Am Lost (and the Moment Cannot Last) > Willow Wand Willow Wand / Hangtown / Yours Truly, the Commuter / Get Up & Go / I'm on Standby / This Song is the Mute Button / Young Saints