What a great night. Before the enigmatic Band Of Horses adorn the East London stage, I’m not surprised to see that folk have arrived early to witness a warm-up from Israel Nash who would quite rightly on another occasion command a headline slot in his own right. The fellow American, whom RockShot Magazine met in Notting Hill last month, was joined on stage by friend and musical partner Eric Swanson for a stunning 6-song support set.
Nash’s highly personal song-writing and powerful vocals compliment perfectly the headline act, and it is easy to see why he has joined them throughout the UK and European leg of their tour. Through a thick beard, he captures the crowd with tracks including Parlour Song and L.A. Lately from latest album Silver Season.
Supported by Swanson on pedal steel, a cool Nash wows those present by multi-tasking vocals with simultaneous accordion and guitar accompaniment. The creative duo, who write and record at a 15-acre ranch in Austin, Texas then handed the baton to Band Of Horses following a beautiful version of Bob Dylan’s, I Shall Be Released which Nash encouraged the crowd to sing along to, declaring it “a thing of beauty when people come together”.
Watching Band Of Horses for me is always something of a surprise, despite having seen them many times and knowing what to expect. The band’s image is somewhat trucker, yet they are tantamount to why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Hailing from Seattle, their personalities and sound are much softer than you might first expect, with family man and founding frontman Ben Bridwell on lead vocals, supported by Tyler Ramsey on lead guitar, Ryan Monroe on guitar and keyboard, Bill Reynolds on bass, and Creighton Barrett on drums.
The country rock band formed in 2004 and to date have notched up no less than five successful studio albums. Playing to the 1,000-plus strong Troxy crowd, tonight they are here to promote their latest offering, Why Are You OK released in mid 2016. Arguably more mellow than Infinite Arms or Cease to Begin before it, the new tracks are laid back and bring out the best in Bridwell’s powerful and distinctive voice.
Many Band Of Horses fans like myself have been with them from the beginning, and would feel cheated had they concentrated tonight’s content solely on the new album. The 20-song set therefore did not disappoint, offering those at the art deco venue to a jumble of tracks spanning the last decade including favourites The Great Salt Lake and Is There a Ghost.
Wearing his trademark baseball cap and sat down at a pedal steel, song-writer Bridwell kicked off the final UK tour date with new track, Dull Times/The Moon, before rising to his feet for Casual Party, their highest charting single to date, an accolade not many bands have achieved five albums in, and proving that they still have the freshness needed to retain the faithful while attracting new fans.
After a medley of tunes from all albums with the exception of Mirage Rock, the Irmo, South Carolina-native treated punters to a solo acoustic version of St. Augustine. He then invited Ramsey to join him for Evening Kitchen, before completing the acoustic trio with Monroe joining the pair on banjo for Part One from their 2006 debut album Everything All The Time.
The quintet then came together for a strong rendition of Neil Young And Crazy Horses’ hit Powderfinger, originally written and performed by Young in 1979.
Towards the end of the main set, a sweat-drenched Bridwell was swathed in pink light for stunning ballad and crowd favourite, No One’s Gonna Love You before the sways turned to dancing for stand-out fun track from the new album, In A Drawer.
Following a short departure from the rug-clad stage, the five-piece returned to perform much anticipated The Funeral to the delight of the gig-goers who gladly hollered along. Finally, Bridwell et al bounced around stage for a tambourine-soaked finale of The General Specific from 2007’s Cease to Begin.
Band Of Horses have never quite reached the dizzy heights of the top of the album charts, but this may be the secret of their enduring success. They have been able to remain consistent and true to themselves, ensuring a steady flow of strong new material fuelled by the charismatic Bridwell.
Band Of Horses now head across the channel to play a number of European dates with Israel Nash and are back in the UK in August to headline End of the Road Festival.
RockShot Magazine’s feature with Israel Nash can be found here: Feature: Israel Nash, On The Lower East Side, There Was A Bar
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Live review and photos of Band Of Horses @ Troxy by Lauren Patel on 23rd February 2017.