Band Of Horses – Manchester Academy 2 - 28.02.08

In recent years Radio 1 has come into its own.

Local radio, (XFM and Revolution) has never justified its existence as anything more than backyard PR to Manchester’s obsession with nostalgia. Rooted in the UK’s most influential musical city (arguments for London please!?) they’ve dug their heels deeper to shrine the past, whilst Radio 1 now champions more of the unsung than ever. Bands like MGMT and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah now feature during daytime Radio 1 broadcasts, allowing glimpses of genius to infiltrate the moribund play lists of old. It’s risky, yet the payoffs for tiny bands, and us the public are massive. One such pay cheque has recently been cashed by Band Of Horses, who tonight grace a sold out Manchester Academy 2.

Supporting are the fantastic Cave Singers (Dwellers, fella’s or something) who are an impish assortment of gents. Singer Pete Quirk, who’s vocals are precariously balanced between a bleeting goat and Neil Young, is a fascinating character, yelping, twitching and indeed bleeting his way through their slightly darkened hill-billy stance. They are the finished article, having that indelible touch that has seen so many adverts sound-tracked by the likes of Devendra Barnhart.

Onto tonight’s headliners Band of Horses, who have since the release of latest album ‘Cease to Begin’, enjoyed a massive
boost by said Radio 1, and rightly so, their delicate mixture of poppy country and avant-garde arrangements ensures a diverse set of followers, which tonight manifests itself into some right rowdy peeps!

Opener ‘Snow’ is followed by the bands breaker single ‘Ghost’ which is as melodious and touching live as per record. But where BOH excel live is in their more anthemic stretching. Of particular note tonight is ‘Ode to LRC’ which gathers a devilish momentum live, loosing some of its delicacy but gaining some much needed aggression. The result is a track that on record appears cliché, yet live has a perfect blend of elegance and antagonism, that although they appear to have in person, on record seldom appears. Front man Ben Bridwell is a perfect example, decked as a ramshackle bumpkin, his demeanour is cloaked in malice. Deaf observation would undoubtedly convey the bearing of a rabid caged rat. Yet, vocally his ethereal, barely tangible delivery eliminates any inherent darker undertones. If Ben sits at odds with the music, bassist Bill breathes it like it’s his last. Mincing the stage in pure abandon, Bill appears like an elfin flower picker, daintily plucking at his bass.

The whole gig from start to end to encore to end is amazing, from new single ‘No Ones gonna Love You’, to old classic ‘Funeral’, to the final Frankie Valley style wail of ‘The General Specific’.

Radio 1 has for once delivered to us a band of quality, a band of passion and of elegance. They will sell out the MEN (if not on the back of this album, then surely the next) and will soundtrack many an idling advert, but their biggest challenge will be to maintain their diversity without selling their soul to pop (RIP My Morning Jacket).

Words / Photo: Dan Pratley

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