They might have waited over four years to unleash their latest album ‘Why Are You OK’ on the general public, but Band of Horses had to wait a little longer to showcase their new record to London. Public transport delays meant the five-piece chivalrously delayed their stage time to ensure that every inch of the reopened Shepherd’s Bush Empire was packed with plaid. The venue had been closed for several months due to a faulty roof and at times during the two hour set the equestrian quintet nearly blew it off again.

Within seconds of finally starting lead singer Ben Bridwell was pogoing in front if his mic stand, yelping at the crowd like an overexcited spaniel. With five albums of material to draw from he needed plenty of energy to keep that up.

While clearly capable of selling out large venues, Band of Horses have never quite captured the imagination of the masses despite the stadium-friendly anthem of ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’. Playing live they showcase their best traits – energy, clever lyrics and powerful choruses, but also highlight their limitations with a few of the songs blurring together in a swamp of chugging chords and feedback. They’re playing in front of a willing crowd though, some of whom are even sporting backwards facing baseball caps à la lead singer Ben Bridwell. Later on while waiting for the encore, the crowd even give the band an Icelandic football fan slow clap that is fast becoming 2016’s Mexican Wave.

The latest release is a return to form and new songs such as ‘Country Teen’ and the stomping ‘Throw My Mess’ standout within the setlist, while recent single ‘Casual Party’ is an early gig highlight.

They end on their finest material with the main set drawing to a close with a high octane version of ‘The Funeral’, before finishing the night with ‘Is There A Ghost’ during the encore. A widescreen American highway of a song, it’s a triumphant finale that receives a raucous response from the sweaty crowd.

What’s most striking during the night though is how happy the band seem to be. ‘Why Are You OK’ has energised the group again and it’s pleasing to see them back in their stride. At one point during the set every member of the band is beaming from ear to ear. The high spirits are infectious and as the crowd spills out into the summer night, their toothy grins light up the sky.

This Band of Horses article was written by Tim Thackray, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit – alexmeyerphotography.com

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