Band of Horses – review

Somerset House, London

"Do you need to take the bottle-top?" a punter asked in exasperation as the security guard removed it from his water bottle. The top joined a pile of others, all confiscated from Band of Horses fans. For once, health and safety really had gone mad: the South Carolina band's fortysomething devotees are as likely to use bottles as missiles as they are to tear off their clothes.

Band of Horses' wintry alt-country aroused passion, certainly, but it was expressed in gentle ways. Their set invited introspection, swaying with eyes closed and, perhaps, an appreciation of the way singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell reclaimed baseball caps and hedgelike beards from their redneck associations. But even the rowdiest moments – such as a stampeding version of Feud, with a sustained, squally outro – incited no rowdiness. This, after all, is a quintet who play in front of a backdrop photo of a lake and trees, ensuring that wherever in the world Band of Horses are, there's always a tranquil view behind them.

This emphasis on small, pastoral things, such as The Great Salt Lake's delicate vocal harmonies and the sweetly melancholy pedal steel of Monsters, places them squarely in the Americana tradition of the Jayhawks and Fleet Foxes. For the purposes of playing live, they should consider escaping from that vehicle: it had them cruising in the mellow lane too often, particularly during tracks from last year's album Mirage Rock (their first to make the UK top 20), such as Everything's Gonna be Undone. They are quite capable of putting more zing in their thing, as proved by a cobweb-clearing version of Dilly (chosen by fans via Twitter), but such redemptive moments were the exception.

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Contributor

Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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