Live Review: Band of Horses Get Smitten at the Masonic

When the lead singer of a band stops to tell the crowd that their current show is the best of the tour, you take it with a grain of salt. Sure, it’s nice to hear, but who’s to say if the band tells that to every audience they play for? But, when Ben Bridwell, lead singer for Band of Horses, told this to the packed Masonic crowd on Wednesday night in his charming South Carolinian drawl, you simply had to believe him.

Band of Horses are no strangers to San Francisco, but as Bridwell noted during their set, they had never played the Masonic.  After giving the venue some strong kudos, he surveyed guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds to get their take on whether the evening’s show was the best of the tour so far. Both readily agreed. Again, these tactics can sometimes elicit a roll of the eyes from frequent concert goers who hear it all the time, but not that night. Band of Horses are an authentic group of guys, and when they tell you something, you take it as the gospel truth.

Before they took the stage, opening act The Wild Feathers set the tone for a jubilant, cathartic evening with a set comprised of confident, soaring Americana. Consisting of three front men that have all had turns as lead singers in previous bands, The Wild Feathers had swelling refrains, catchy guitars, and a charming stage presence. Ricky Young, Taylor Burns, and Joel King all dressed the part of the dapper Southern hipster, while Ben Dumas endearingly kept the drummer aesthetic alive by rocking out in a white t-shirt.

“It’s almost time for Band of Horses!” Young teased the crowd, before adding, “but first, we’ve got 17 more songs.”

After a more reasonable two tracks, The Young Feathers left to a raucous applause not usually extended to opening bands in the late-arriving, jaded San Francisco concert scene.  This was a warm crowd, a testament perhaps to the type of folks that dig Band of Horses’ whole-hearted, melodic jams. In short: It takes a certain kind of fan to cheer with unbridled enthusiasm when a song called “Funeral” starts up.

Having seen Band of Horses a number of times, I always worry that the shine will wear thin. Yes, there are new albums, but the act isn’t one that is likely to drastically change. You’re going to hear the aforementioned “Funeral,” along with “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Is There a Ghost.” You’re going to watch Bridwell joke around with his bandmates and profusely thank those in attendance. The steps in a Band of Horses show have long been choreographed, but here’s the thing: They never get old.

Seeing a band that is actually having fun on stage is borderline cathartic. You can sense it in the way Ramsey holds his guitar aloft, awaiting the crash that follows the quiet opening verse of “Funeral.” It’s the fact that the band invites their guitar technicians on stage to jam out during encore closer “The General Specific.” It’s in almost everything they do.

At the evening’s end, as Bridwell was again praising the Masonic as a venue, he let slip that he’d “heard a rumor” the band might be back “in this very room” before the end of the year. With tour dates ruling them out for an as-yet-unannounced appearance at either Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert, the purpose and date of their suggested return remains a mystery.

What is certain is that many in attendance on Wednesday night will likely be back, eager to relive the evening once again. Sure, we may all know what to expect, but for now, it hasn’t come close to getting old.

Setlist:
Is There a Ghost
The Great Salt Lake
Casual Party
Islands on the Coast
Solemn Oath
Laredo
Barrel House
For Annabelle
Dilly
St. Augustine
Country Teen
13 Days (J.J. Cale cover)
No One’s Gonna Love You
In a Drawer
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
Hag
Throw My Mess
The Funeral
Encore:
Weed Party
The General Specific

 

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