Live: Band Of Horses @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Seattle-based rockers Band Of Horses released fifth studio album Why Are You OK last month, and following a triumphant John Peel stage performance at this year’s recent Glastonbury Festival, they were back in the UK for a trio of shows, including two stops at London’s newly re-opened Shepherd’s Bush Empire venue. With the record coming from a slightly different place than the previous four, frontman Ben Bridwell having recently become a father for the fourth time and producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin giving it a glance, we have a lot to look forward to.

Bill Reynolds & Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Bill Reynolds & Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

With their American Trucker look of beards, denim jackets and Bridwell’s baseball caps, it would be easy to mistake the five-piece for a generic trucker rock band, but their sound can be so delicate and innocent that they clearly prove that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Ryan Monroe of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ryan Monroe of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

“So we’re called Band Of Horses” Bridwell said, stepping onto the West London stage before addressing the venue’s closure throughout 2016 for structural maintenance work. “So this is the first night of Shepherd’s Bush being re-opened” he said to cheers from the audience, “we’re re-christening the building tonight so let’s have some damn fun!”

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

In a change-up from recent shows which have focused on the new album, tonight was kicked off with Cigarettes, Wedding Bands from sophomore record Cease To Begin, the 2007 track leading straight into debut album single The Great Salt Lake, Bridwell taking every opportunity to move about the stage and losing his baseball cap earlier on, reclaiming it later in the set.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

“God if feels so great to be playing in this building” the 38-year-old frontman said, beaming out at the crowd before the group ploughed into the new album’s lead single Casual Party, the upbeat tune garnering a gentle head nod from the crowd.

Bill Reynolds of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Bill Reynolds of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

“We tried to delay the show a little bit to make sure the people that were stuck on the train could get here” Bridwell said, referencing tonight’s outage of the Central Line before tearing into Cease To Begin cut Islands On The Coast, before proceedings were slowed down with Why Are You OK song Hag.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

“Thank you everybody, that’s from our new damn album. That damn album’s called Why Are You OK and it’s pretty fuckin’ good” Bridwell said with a grin spread across his face before continuing the slow feel with Infinite Arms cut Blue Beard, ensuring a good mix of old and new.

Creighton Barrett of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Creighton Barrett of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

The party feel was picked up once more with 2010 single Compliments. “Guess what? Chicken snot!” the Irmo, South Carolina-born front man joked with the crowd before introducing Wallflowers and Foo Fighters keyboard played Rami Jaffee to the stage to contribute keys to upbeat Infinite Arms single Laredo. Jaffee stayed on for new album track Throw My Mess, the song definitely exemplifying the band’s Country Music influence, highlighted with their recent Acoustic At The Ryman live album.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Guitarist Tyler Ramsey took over lead vocal duties next for slow-paced new album Country tune Country Teen before more old-school Band Of Horses was aired. New album track In A Drawer had keyboardist Ryan Monroe contributing vocals while sat at the upright piano to the left of the stage.

Tyler Ramsey of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Tyler Ramsey of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

“Here’s one for you, also a true story” Bridwell mumbled quickly before the opening guitars of No One’s Gonna Love You rang out, enticing cheers from the crowd for Cease To Begin’s slow ballad single, the crowd singing along with the song’s melancholy chorus.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Mirage Rock’s Long Vows had Bridwell bring out Rami Jaffee once more, this time to accompany the 2012 record’s sole cut on accordion. Cease To Begin fan favourites The General Specific and Ode To LRC were up next – Bridwell’s guitar having some issues, having him ditch it for the latter – led the night nicely to main set closer The Funeral, the band’s first and still biggest hit spurring the audience to immediately reach for their mobile phones to film the performance.

Bill Reynolds of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Bill Reynolds of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

For the encore, set-listed song, new album opener Dull Times / The Moon, was replaced with upbeat debut album track Weed Party due to the show’s late start pushing the night closer to the venue’s curfew, and the billed song clocking in at over seven minutes, leaving Birdwell’s floor-standing pedal steel unused for the night. And the night was closed out with Cease To Begin’s lead single Is There A Ghost.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

With each of the band’s five studio albums getting a look-in, albeit brief in the case of 2012’s Mirage Rock, tonight’s show served as both a reminder of what makes Band Of Horses a great Country-tinged rock outfit but also to air material from their new record, the songs slipping seamlessly into the set.

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Bridwell of Band Of Horses (Kalpesh Patel)

Following shows across Australia, Band Of Horses return to the US for an extensive run of shows to see out the year before returning to the UK for a six-date tour including a stop at East London’s Troxy.

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More images of the Band Of Horses http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Band-Of-Horses/G0000LO2XIHl7S2E

Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate

Read all about this year’s Glastonbury Festival including more Band Of Horses here: Glastonbury 2016 – Mud, Brexit and All-English Headliners

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