Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Band of Horses / Darker My Love @ Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall, Monday 14th June 2010

Right, mustn’t mention the World Cup...bollocks...okay that’s the last mention of it. Promise. Especially as the English team’s probably been knocked out/injured/ defected to a team with at least some frickin’ hope of winning by now. Gah! Did you see the game against the USA? Good grief. I only watched up to the point where our goalie decided to roll the ball into his own net. Genius. Speaking of (cheesy link ahoy) the USA (see, told you) tonight’s gig saw a brace of bands from way over United Stateside, kicking off (damn...bloody football) with Darker My Love.

Echoes of The Doors, The Byrds and The Band (from way back when), Oasis (from a while back) and White Rabbit (from right now) they’re a psych rock 5 piece from LA featuring former members of The Fall (come on now, who hasn’t been in The Fall yet...my gran played bass with them just after the war you know) and The Distillers. When they get into their groove on tracks like ‘Dear Author’ (the pick of tonight’s set for me) you could almost be transported back to the heady days of the 60’s (1966 hopefully then we might have some chuffing chance of winning the...oh balls...). Blessed with two vocalists (one hairy, one not so hairy) they’ve got the vocal weaponry to manage the blissed out psychedelic tunes as well as the ballsy stuff and judging by the quality of tonight’s set their forthcoming album ‘Alive As You Are’ should be right up your passage if you’re in to your classic late 60’s early 70’s rock.

On then to the headliners, country rockers Band of Horses. Let’s hear it for beards. Yay! Their lead singer’s got a fine one. You could probably smuggle a (very)small horse across the border in there and no one would notice (maybe that’s how they got their name?). Imagine The Flaming Lips getting it on with Kings of Leon and you’ve got a (very rough) idea of the sound. They first came to my attention a while back with (arguably the pick of tonight’s set) ‘Is There a Ghost’ and it’s a song that, for me, defines what they do best, that whole quiet intro and slow build to a rocking climax. They’ve clearly got a thang for the great outdoors, with the whole show being played against a backdrop of photos of deer, pine forests and er...festivals...well you can’t get much more rugged and wild than that eh? Have you ever seen a festival toilet? Something else they’ve clearly got a passion for is guitars. For much of the show there were four of ‘em up there cranking away while a couple of guitar techs beavered away at the back keeping another half a dozen or so in good working order. Designed to add texture to the music (rather than blow your ears off) it created a warm, rich palette of sound (palette of sound...what the fuck am I on?) against which lead horse Ben Bridewell was able to deliver his gentle songs of love, loss and salt lakes. The set passed pleasantly enough with plenty of memorable performances including an emotional retelling of their biggest hit ‘The Funeral’, and a couple of songs from the new album (Infinite Arms) ‘Older’ beautifully sung by keyboardist Ryan Monroe and the waltzing ‘Factory’. They must’ve got through a good 25 tracks or so in an hour and a half and, to be honest, one or two numbers washed over me a little but that’s a minor gripe. The encore (which lasted longer than some band’s main sets) included a couple of neat cover versions including JJ Cale’s ‘13 days’, prefaced by Ben telling us all that this was day 70(!) of their current tour (although seemingly he told people in London last week it was day 77 so maybe they’re a band of time travellers as well as horses). The show ended with an old soul number, an organ driven cover of Them Two’s ‘Am I A Good Man’ which showed plenty of the passion and fire that perhaps a couple of the self penned tracks lacked. Overall though, a pretty thoroughbred performance all round.

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