Band of Horses are, you sense, the kind of band that have their ups and downs. Over the course of the last decade, they’ve had line-up changes to rival Foo Fighters or The Fall with almost a dozen members passing through on their way to somewhere else. What’s more, frontman Ben Bridwell’s somewhat peripatetic lifestyle (he was born in Irmo, South Carolina, moved to Tucson, Arizona, shifted over to Olympia, Washington, then Seattle, before shifting back to South Carolina around about the time they recorded 2nd album, “Cease to Begin”) bespeaks a kind of restlessness that is apparent both in their music and in their slightly contrary flirtation with success (flitting between the gloss of Glyn Johns – producer of just about every name rock band you’ve ever heard – on “Mirage Rock” to the more quirky Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle on their most recent album, “Why are you OK?”).
Thankfully, any worries that might loiter in the darker precincts of Bridwell’s mind are firmly put aside the night Band of Horses hit Manchester. Albert Hall is as crowded as it can be, the strange wooden rafters creaking and the air full of the kind of dust motes you’d more commonly see in a stable. Opening with two tracks from “Infinite Arms” (their biggest selling album to date), it isn’t until they hit ‘Casual Party’ and ‘Solemn Oath’ – two tracks from “Why are you OK?” – that the band seem to relax and hit a stride. It seems to take Bridwell and the band by surprise just how much the audience dig them, an equal and ferocious devotion meeting older songs like ‘Laredo’ and ‘No one’s Gonna Love You’ just as much as newer songs like ‘In a Drawer’ and ‘Throw My Mess’. By the time we get to ‘The Great Salt Lake’ and ‘Weed Party’, you would think this was a mighty homecoming gig.
“The world is such a wonderful place,” Bridwell sings on ‘Ode to LRC’ and for a minute he’s Robbie Williams and this song is their ‘Angels’ – the audience have their hands up and quite literally everyone is singing. You wouldn’t credit it. Even Bridwell himself seems taken back. “Wow.” And still they are not done. Throughout the gig, you can see people reminded afresh of songs that had slipped off their collective radar: ‘Detlef Schrempf’, ‘Is There a Ghost?’, ‘The Funeral’. All killer and no filler. Ending with ‘The General Specific’, Bridwell can see that he has a room of happy punters. Job well done, boys. Job well done.