A couple days ago I posted a review of the last time I saw Band of Horses perfom in Chicago. It’s basically a 1200 word rant about the state of concerts and concertgoers in society today. When I wrote that piece, I was really angry and let down by the band, the venue, and the crowd. Against my better judgement, I went ahead and bought tickets to go see this show at Metro. All things considered it was a pretty enjoyable show, save for the guy that spilled half a beer on Kari’s legs and then looked at her bewildered as to why she would be upset. There were other things that I could (and I will) nitpick about, but both bands put on a good show, and really that’s all that matters.
Michael Kiwanuka was the opener, and I was shocked that he hadn’t played in Chicago before. I could have sworn he had, but I guess he would know better than I would. His band was bigger than I expected, mostly due to the extra percussion player who seemed to play every instrument that didn’t have strings. I lost count after about a dozen or so different noisemakers he was using. The crowd seemed to be full of people who knew who Kiwanuka was and what he sounded like, which was a good thing. I like his music-it’s sexy and soulful and never dumb. Michael has a great voice and is a much better guitar player than I gave him credit for.
He played a shorter set than I expected, given that there were only two bands. The show started at 8, and by 8:40 he was off the stage and they were clearing the floor for Band Of Horses. In that time I think they played about 8 or 9 songs, most of them having long instrumental jams somewhere in the middle. The guy playing keys, who I could not see where I was standing, was doing some great work along with Michael’s rhythm guitarist, who seemed to never move and played effortlessly. The sound system wasn’t giving the vocals the justice I would have liked, but it was decent enough that you could tell the gentleman on stage could really belt them out. Hopefully he comes back soon and we can see him in a venue whose sound never disappoints (Lincoln Hall).
Since the first set ended so early, I assumed that Band Of Horses would start at 9. They seemed to have all the equipment already on stage, but for some reason it was 9:15 before they came out. So I spent half an hour having some bony girl’s elbow hitting me in the back, and Kari went into the photo pit where she was soon joined by about a hundred other photographers. I have to give props to whoever was running the music at Metro in between the bands, because I was really digging it and the rest of the crowd was, too.
The band came out to wild applause and launched right into fan favorite “The Great Salt Lake.” This was a wise decision to get the crowd going. The previous time I saw them they opened with two slow ballads featuring just Ben Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey, and I think this caused the audience to check out. The set continued with a good mix of “the hits” and deep cuts, as well as some new songs.
Of the new stuff, off their upcoming record Mirage Rock, I liked a couple and didn’t like the rest. Their first single off the album “Knock Knock” is pretty bad in my mind. But the songs “Long Vows” and “Slow Cruel Hands” were both really good. There was one song, “Dumpster World,” that many in the crowd were screaming for, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. Apparently it’s been played at other shows, and it got it’s official debut back in June. It was a lot more punk rock than I’ve seen Band Of Horses, which is good I suppose. They also flashed that grittiness on “Electric Music,” which was a slight miss for me. I thought it was ok, and maybe I’ll like it better on the album.
I feel like the band is best when they stay within their wheelhouse, which is why songs like “General Specific” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” play so well. I’ll grant them that their set was fraught with mini disasters-Bridwell’s guitar not working, the fans blowing away all his papers so he didn’t know what he was playing anyway. The sound system was giving them a lot of problems as well. I was right next to the speakers stage left, and there was a constant hissing almost louder than the music. Just like with Kiwanuka’s set, the vocals were buried (and I think the monitors were messed up as well because Bridwell couldn’t seem to hear himself or the band).
Even with these problems, the people gathered at Metro were feeding the band energy, and the men on stage were thriving. It didn’t sound great, but it was fun. A big step in the right direction in my mind. Once they came out and played the encore, which was three songs, all of my fury about their last show had vanished and all I could do was sing along to “The world is such a wonderful place.”