Band of Horses @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery 05/24/10
They've been all over the map, playing at Amoeba, the Avalon and even the Roxy earlier this week. So it may come as no surprise that Band of Horses chose the final resting spot for some of Hollywood's most enduring personalities as the first stop on their road to showcase Infinite Arms.
Still, most inside the Masonic Lodge in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Monday night - which included about four dozen contest winners, studio execs and others - crowned with anticipation before they took the stage, waiting to hear the newest sounds from South Carolina-based Band of Horses.
While their newest album may not garner them widespread praise, there is no denying that Band Of Horses have a sound so finite, so particular, it's a wonder there's still a growing fan base for them. They exploded onto the scene four years ago with the nearly perfect Everything All the Time, stuck around with the hit-and-miss Cease to Begin and are making a serious play for the hearts and minds of the mainstream with Infinite Arms. (Monday night's show was sponsored by 98.7, a radio station that used to blare Britney Spears, now plays rock but always called themselves "Star.")
However, Band of Horses is still able to maintain an undeniably independent streak, playing their signature brand of country infused campfire ballads with a splash of rock and a dash of twang. Monday night's nearly naked set included the bare minimum with just a piano, bass and two acoustic guitars; i.e., just enough to win over those lucky enough to attend the show.
The quartet started off with "Infinite Arms" the title track from their latest album. It was a soft ballad that washed over the crowd gently, offering a calm preview of a night bathed in soaring melodies that ended in hand claps. They transitioned well to "Mary," from their sophomore effort Cease to Begin, which allowed lead singer Ben Bridwell to show off his golden pipes.
"No One's Gonna Love You," featured just Bridwell on vocals and Tyler Ramsey on guitar with the former's eyes rammed shut as he held tightly onto the mic stand, signing: "If things start splitting at the seams and now, it's tumbling down." It's a line that could easily be cringe-worthy, but Bridwell pulls it off well.
Though the set was stripped down, the hall wasn't. The narrow stage inside the Masonic Lodge was littered by candelabras set in front of wall - normally stark white - shrouded by deeply lit shades of blue, purple and reds. Four thrones sat on the stage with thick wood beams racing across the ceiling and the Eye of Providence looking down through stained glass.
(And the cemetery grounds, of course, gave new meaning to the word intimate. Most patrons parked along curbs that buttressed grave sites. We walked through the narrow path to and from the concert hall, most in hushed tones.)
Still, there were a few moments when some yearned for a grander sound, more than the four instruments offered. Without any percussion (except for the piano), some bridges fell flat, waiting for a good hard beat with Bridwell on one song even pantomiming a tambourine. Moreover, while the inherent beauty of the singers' voices gave some songs an aerial quality, the stripped down, drum-less set cut both ways as the simplicity (or intimacy) of some tracks plunged them into the bunker of boredom.
That's not to say, however, that the set was not superb and devoid of energy. During the last moments of the night's finale, the crowd rose to its feet, clapping in unison with Bridwell cooing high above it all on "The General Specific."
Walking off, through the energetic crowd, pianist Ryan Monroe shook hands as he passed through saying to one guest: "This is awesome. I've never played in anything like this. I love this." The feeling was mutual.
No One's Gonna Love You
A Song for You (Graham Parsons cover)
The General Specific