Gig Review: Band Of Horses, The Cave Singers @ Manchester Academy 2, 24th February 2008

We arrived at the Academy 2 the Sunday before last, full of anticipation. Not just for Band Of Horses, who were excellent at the Music Box last year despite Ben Bridwell pulling a strop towards the end, but with The Cave Singers’ brilliant debut Invitation Songs being on heavy rotation at Indie Cred HQ, we were expecting as much from the support as from the headliners.

The Cave Singers @ Manchester Academy 2
We arrived in time to catch the last couple of songs from Tyler, who turned out to be a member of Band Of Horses and was very impressive, playing some beautifully laid back country rock and providing excellent vocals and guitar. I kind of wished we’d got down earlier to catch the rest of the set but The Cave Singers‘ set was soon under way and Tyler was forgotten for the time being as the Seattle threesome went about their business of more than living up to their promise and gaining a whole lot of new fans in the process. It’s incredible to think that this trio come from hearty indie rock stock as their backwoods country sound and look is so authentic. The repetitive, rhythmic guitar patterns of ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves bassist Derek Fudesco is perhaps the key element of their sound, driving the songs along in a such a way that the lack of a bass player in the band becomes irrelevant. Indeed, the guitar part on the opening, gorgeous, “Seeds Of Night” is essentially a bassline played on an acoustic guitar. They sounded just as good live as they do on record, and perhaps even more accessible as Peter Quirk’s voice sounded smoother and much less nasal than it does on the album. The instrumentaion on the album is so minimalistic that it was fairly easy for them to replicate the sound on stage, occasionally adding the likes of melodica, banjo and a hint of synthesiser to their basic drums-and-two-guitars set up. The audience lapped it up and there were huge cheers as they left the stage.

Band Of Horses @ Manchester Academy 2Band Of Horses were on imperious form. They started at a canter with a blazing reading of “First Song” and rarely let up as they blasted through a good selection of tracks from both albums. It was great to see a band enjoy themselves so much on stage; Ben Bridwell looked to be having the time of his life as he threw himself into the songs, while bass player Bill Reynolds – looking like he should be on stage with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the 70s – wore a look of permanent glee. Their obvious enjoyment of the proceedings certainly rubbed off on the audience who grew more vociferous with each passing song. Even faced with a JJ Cale cover followed by an unfamiliar new song, sung by keyboard player Ryan Monroe, the crowd’s ardour didn’t relent, and when a slight lull became apparent during the quiet “Marry Song”, the band followed it up with full on versions of “Ode To LRC” and “Weed Party” that brought any wandering minds sharply back into focus.

There was some light relief in the abortive start to the encore of “Our Swords” when the guitar tech, whose birthday it was, fucked up Bridwell’s bass tuning – a mistake that might have had Bridwell bristling a year ago, but he was all smiles here. Then came the excellent “Window Blues” from Cease To Begin – the best song My Morning Jacket never wrote – and they ended the night fittingly with a storming cover of Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Effigy”. Band Of Horses have come on leaps and bounds in the past year or so and, even if you were slightly disappointed by the MOR tendencies of their latest album, live, they are not to be missed.

The Cave Singers – Seeds Of Night

Band Of Horses – Ode To LRC

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