Band of Horses return to the stage to a rapturous reception from the packed out O2 academy. A pause, Ben Bridwell murmurs, ‘We’ve got a thing called The Funeral’, and the group launch into their earliest hit. It’s the moment that everyone has been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint; a towering rendition and the perfect exhibition of the group’s wistful, anthemic might. Unfortunately this was the first song of the encore, and it was a delicious icing on top of what was a rather dry cake.
Band of Horses are touring their fifth studio album and since their superb debut in 2006 some critics have accused them of moving laterally, the raw energy of their first releases becoming diluted. On Tuesday night it was easy to see what they meant as Bridwell and co. packed 24 songs into a two-hour set, large parts of which felt rather flat as the pace rarely changed and songs seemed to meld together. This may be overly harsh however, since the set was also punctuated with some great moments: Throw My Mess and In a Drawer are two highlights from their latest album Why are you OK?. While No One’s Gonna Love You endures as a stunning and gut wrenching melancholy ballad. Bridwell also treats us to a sensational display of his unique vocal power with a solo acoustic rendition of St Augustine before the volume is ramped up again for The Great Salt Lake and Is There a Ghost.
There was one more treat in the encore too, a cherry (hooray for the extended cake metaphor) in the form of The General Specific. It’s everything a finale should be, a joyous crescendo as the five piece threw everything at the adoring crowd who threw it all back again. It was a phenomenal moment and showed Band of Horses at their absolute best: intimate and exuberant, rueful and jubilant all at the same time. It was almost enough to make one forget about the times that evening when they were none of those things. Almost.