Band of Horses set free remarkable talent inside The Egg’s acoustic heaven on February 23, leaving a deep mark on the 900+ people inside the Hart Theatre. With only about half of the audience seated, the group’s long time friend, Sera Cahoone, warmed up the room with her soft, sultry, simple sound, along with the steel pedal guitar mastery of Jason Kardong. Sera’s casual stories about ten years of touring were happily received– especially the one of the rat eating her leftover dinner at a dumpy hotel, although it is not the premise behind the song, “Shitty Hotel”; that tale followed.
The few hundred fans still milling in the lobby during Cahoone’s performance made their way to their seats just in time to hear three powerful voices backed by a clean piano perform the dramatic ballad, “St. Augustine”. Though classified as Indie, Southern Rock or Alternative Country, seeing and hearing Band of Horses, you can sense the Seattle influence. There is a distinct grunge feel to the look and sound of these guys, but the Southern influence is heavy as well.
The acoustic tour, promoting their recently released Acoustic at the Ryman album, is a short-lived experience with only 13 performances scheduled and Albany was the eighth stop. The stage setup at The Hart Theater included rugs, a floor lamp spouting a plain living room shade, and an old record player, creating a homey, comfortable experience meant to mimic what is supposed to be a laid-back, toned-down experience. That’s a tough act to achieve when using gigantic equipment such as a baby grand piano, a bass, and whole host of guitar varieties — not to mention the massive vocals.
The relaxed scene was in direct opposition to the powerfully strong sound that was consistently offered. One thing is for sure — these guys know sound. Whether solo or collaborative, each piece was well balanced, offering the same commanding intensity with one voice as with all the instruments together. The music was very well written for acoustic performance, and the inclusion of the toned-down drums was brilliant.
Their songs are deep, penetrating and sometimes heart-breaking. The high quality of the group’s talent, performed in a theater designed to perfectly move sound resulted in beautiful, potent and dramatic music. I went to this show to hear “Laredo,” became intrigued by “Ode to LRC” and was seriously moved by “No One’s Gonna Love You.” Crowd favorites included “Is There a Ghost” and “Funeral.”
Just before wrapping up their set, the band’s founder and lead, Ben Bridwell, announced their “fake last song,” offering a refreshingly humorous perspective on the strangely accepted “encore” ritual that both musicians and fans accept, despite the insincerity of it. But it was worth the two minute wait. Just before the encore, the band members walked through the crowd to pass out little plastic egg-shaker sound-makers to the entire audience. (These instruments had the band’s name printed on them – a brilliant marketing strategy!) The crowd was encouraged to join in the performance – and wow – this was almost as good as having everyone know every word to the song and loudly sing it. Actually, maybe this was better. Again, a testament to this group’s sense of sound, this instrument could not possibly be offensive or off-key. It was soft enough to complement the band’s music, yet still offer crowd participation. So not only do the Band of Horses know sound; they also know how to draw people in!