September 29: Band of Horses

Back again at the Fillmore, a venue that often feels too big for its britches, and charges way too much for beer. But this is the curse of enjoying bands in that transition phase, going from playing to a gaggle of silent foot-tappers to a horde of singers-along. And the Fillmore is actually great for this type of show. It was exceptional, last spring, for the Decemberists, and it was perfect for Band of Horses, who in the last 5 years have cracked into the cold hearts of the indie culture and left an ineffable impression. They have the audience, to make use of the Fillmore's giant-high-school-prom setting, and they also have a pair of great albums loaded with memorable material... and a new album. I can sell myself on the new stuff, but the opportunity to see BoH before they reach what I'll call "The Coldplay Curve," where a band focuses on being big more than being excellent,was impossible to pass up.

Opening for BoH was Darker My Love, and then Admiral Radley (a band, it turns out, composed from members of Grandaddy and Earlimart). Both were easy picks to join the tour as they oscillated between folk, country and rock, with a touch of psychedelia and rockabilly, in each of the two opening sets. I found Darker My Love to be a little more repetitive and less hook-centered in their songs, but they still put on an entertaining show, given their slot as "band that the audience hears as they shuffle in and fight for good standing spots and/or get beers." Admiral Radley was stronger, likely due to pedigree and the fact that combining Grandaddy and Earlimart has to be a recipe for success. It was largely the same genre music, just less familiar, but knitted with strong hooks and catchy choruses. And all this is great, these openers warm you to the music you'll hear, but never transcends the big band, which is great for BoH, but was a little stale feeling at times. In a show like this, with two openers, one should, nay MUST be a different style altogether, or at least as far away as the audience can be expected to like. Loose affiliations mean we're more likely to hear something we don't expect, and I kind of expected everything I got from the openers. Not that I disliked it, but I expected it.

BoH came out and did everything I hoped they would. First, they didn't play too much of the new album. And I'm sure it's not that bad, but it just isn't as lively or honest, instead feeling like a churned out series of contract-satisfying schmaltz. Second, they played "Is There A Ghost," "Ode To LRC," and "Monsters," which once fulfilled made me a happy camper for whatever they played next. Third, they were tight, on key, energetic and fun. The projector that was used by the openers for their sets, burned out or broke during the second intermission, and BoH had to go on without their light show, which they did admirably. It was one of few shows at the Fillmore that I have felt to be intimate, despite the venue's size, because BoH just seemed to be having fun... Also, they took requests for the encore, which is a classy and all-too-rare show experience. The show closed on one of those super-jam moments where everyone from the night's bands got up and played. It was a decent cover of Neil Young song that they battled through. So, after seeing them, finally, I'd recommend grabbing BoH while they're "small." There won't be too many shows where they take requests down the line.

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