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A Band of Horses Doubleheader

December 12th, 2012

Band of Horses – Grand Ballroom/Hammerstein Ballroom – December 11, 2012

Before playing a monster two-hour set at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Band of Horses played an hour’s worth of acoustic material seven floors up in the Grand Ballroom. Not only was lead singer Ben Bridwell hell-bent on playing the band’s full catalog across the two shows, but he wasn’t shy about how shakily reformatted he thought some would sound when played acoustic. And while he prefaced almost every song with a quip about how unprepared they felt, that certainly didn’t affect the performances. With the fuzz of their electric guitars removed, the California (by way of South Carolina) band let their Southern influences show. Tracks like “Marry Song” saw Ryan Monroe substitute grand piano for the normal Fender Rhodes, and “Detlef Schrempf” had its delicate and reverberant guitar parts traded for sparkling acoustic guitar licks played by Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey.

It got even rarer with Bridwell’s solo performance of “St. Augustine,” but the band didn’t just stay slow the whole set. They tucked fan-favorite “The Funeral” into the latter half, and even pleased the obligatory guy in the crowd yelling for Skynyrd by figuring out “Simple Man” on the fly (and doing a pretty damn good job playing it). The show ended with the bouncy “The General Specific,” which got the sizable Grand Ballroom audience dancing in the aisles, in part thanks to the song, and in part because for most of them the night was far from over: They were about to head downstairs for round two.

Two-and-a-half hours later, Band of Horses churned through more than 60 minutes of material during their first electric set, as they covered songs that hadn’t been touched earlier. They reached deep into their bag early on for versions of “Part One” and “The First Song,” both from their first album, 2006’s Everything All the Time, and sprinkled in some new (the heavier, more straightforward “Dumpster World”) as Bridwell joked plenty about trying to remember some of the songs.

When the clock ticked just past midnight, the band took a break before returning for a second hour-long set, this time covering more of their newer material while also overlapping some of the old they had already played at the acoustic show, like “No One’s Gonna Love You.” The blended sets displayed everything the band has to offer, like their beautifully sweet vocal harmonies and slide guitar–tinged rock. But the night also showed off the group’s fun side, as Bridwell and his bandmates pulled off playing a dizzying amount of songs without it turning into Benny Hill, and for that the crowd was just as loud at 1 a.m. as they were when it began. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com