The Time I Got Angry At The Band Of Horses Show At Riviera

This is almost two years old now, but with the BoH show at Metro just a day away, I figured I would remind everyone where I stood after their last show. Their new album Mirage Rock comes out sometime next month and I wasn’t exactly blown away by the single. Hopefully they can redeem themselves with a great show. I’ve only been disappointed once at Metro, so maybe the better venue will allow them to shine.

This is easily the most negative show review I’ve written; where the band, venue, and audience are all taken to task for making a classic CF out of what should have been a good show. The event took place October 19, 2010.


I’ve been a bit of a Negative Nancy on some of the venues in Chicago lately. It hasn’t been an issue with the bands thus far, but a problem with the people working and attending the shows. If you’ll allow me, I need to get a couple things off my chest before I can really review the Band of Horses performance at Riviera Theatre.

First, why is it that when a show has a start time of 7 p.m., people think it’s OK to show up 90 minutes late and go straight to the front and try to squeeze in? It’s disrespectful to the people who got there at a reasonable time, and a display of self-centeredness that makes me wonder why MORE countries don’t hate Americans. I understand that maybe you had to work late, and 8:30 was the earliest time you could get to the show. I empathize with that. I really do. But I doubt that was the case for the 50 or so people who were walking around the balcony trying to find a seat three songs into Band of Horses’ set.

I know that one of the main appeals of going to a show is that you get to pay eight dollars for a beer that you could get at the store for 50 cents. What I don’t understand is the need to miss half a concert because you constantly have to move to get another drink. How hard is it to enjoy a concert, that you’ve already paid 20 or 30 dollars to see, slightly sober? Could you have maybe drank at home, and then come to the show so you can stay seated or standing where you are, instead of pushing through a huge group of people to get a beer (or six) and then try to make your way back through the crowd holding said beverages?

This will be my last one on the people that annoyed me at the show. You paid money, same as me, so by all means have as good a time as you want. However, when you’re talking louder than the music, it’s a problem for me. Singing along loudly is one thing, but I don’t need to know about the girl you screwed, or how messed up you’re going to get this weekend. Not that it isn’t entertaining, just not worth paying money I don’t have to hear. Follow the same concept as a movie theater. If everyone is looking at the stage, listening to the performers, keep your goddamn mouth shut! Or, at least to a whisper.

OK, I lied. One more thing. Some people go to concerts to enjoy a show. Some people go assuming that they, and whoever they are with, are the only people at the concert. As Ben Bridwell was singing about what a wonderful place the world is, I could think of nothing but bludgeoning about six people with my phone. I don’t mind getting knocked into a bit at a show. It’s gonna happen no matter where you are. But there’s a point where it gets ridiculous and it’s time to step back and say, “Hey, maybe I should bring it down a notch so that everyone here can enjoy this awesome rock concert. I’m being very selfish in thinking that I’m the only one that paid to see this show.” At least, I think there’s a moment where a person would think that. Maybe not.

Sorry to go all crazy up in here. I really don’t know why some of this stuff bothers me so much. I guess I’m getting older. Soon my hair will be white (editors note: it is), my eyebrows huge, and I’ll be talking about how much I hate all these new-fangled gadgets. I don’t even like the word “gadget.” (Sidebar: If you get this reference, or think you do, post a comment below. I’m curious to know how many people get what I’m going after and how many people think I’m a complete idiot).

The Riviera Theatre itself is a dilapidated relic that needs to be renovated almost as much as the roads and bridges in Illinois. The set up is pretty nice inside, except for the fact that they put the wristband area directly in front of the entrance. As soon as you walk in there’s a huge crowd waiting to get their ‘bands so they can get their drink on. Right behind that is the first of the bar areas. So again, a big crowd. Once you actually get into the stage area, you see the chandeliers and ornate ceiling. A callback to the opulence of yesteryear that I’m sure the Riv exemplified at some point.

We decided to go up to the balcony after a few minutes of looking for a good place to stand. We were lucky to get two seats together, as the place was pretty full even without the idiots I mentioned in the first 500 words of this review.

The show kicked off in an interesting way. Ben Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey appeared in one of the loge boxes and performed two songs, “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Evening Kitchen,” alone and acoustic. It was a great way to introduce the band and they were performed beautifully.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the show for me. The sound system at Riviera is awful. They could have hooked everything up to my two Bose speakers and it would’ve created a fuller, more engrossing sound. The guitars sounded unnecessarily muddy most of the time, and the vocals weren’t as crisp as I would have liked.

The crowd in the balcony was pretty lame. It seemed like half of the people in attendance had no idea what they were watching. Until the band started playing some rockers off of Infinite Arms I seriously thought the majority of the people there had been taken hostage and forced to come to the show.

So after a while we went back down to the floor. This was interesting for a couple of reasons. The guy working security on the side that we ended up seems to take his job much too seriously. He had his flashlight set and at the ready if anyone broke the “White Line” that he was so vigilantly monitoring. It was actually pretty hilarious how many people he yelled at. The other interesting thing was that the audience on the floor was only slightly more into the concert than the people upstairs. This upset me greatly. I’m not sure if the energy in the audience was so down because the show wasn’t very good, or if the show wasn’t very good because the audience seemed so apathetic.

This marks the fourth time I’ve seen Band of Horses live. The first was Lollapalooza 2009, and then we went to see them at their annual New Year’s Eve Show in Atlanta, which is two shows. Each of those times I’ve left feeling like they gave it their all and really wanted the fans to enjoy the show. At the Riviera show, I felt like the band was tired. They’ve been on a long tour, so I don’t begrudge them for being exhausted. What I do begrudge, at least a little, is showing that you’re exhausted. Bands tour all the time. It’s their job to go out and deliver a good time.

So once again, I’m left disappointed by Band of Horses. In my album review, I mentioned that the record isn’t bad, by any means. It’s just that I expect more from Band of Horses. That’s exactly how I feel about this show. I put them right up there with Wilco and Josh Ritter (up until this show, that is). I’d pay money to see any of them sit on stage and talk about the politics of the Cold War and leave happy as a clam. So when one of them puts on a so-so show, it makes me sad because I know what they’re capable of.

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