Review: Band of Horses go all-out, fans go wild at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa
There’s something to be said about showing up and giving your fans exactly what they want. Band of Horses did just that Sunday night to a sold-out crowd at the Ritz Ybor.
Washed in red and blue lights, the five-piece alt-country/Southern rock band hit the stage in full speed. Bandleader Ben Bridwell might look like a hillbilly hipster, but man that boy can sing. Don’t let any of their looks fool you. Especially stoic lead guitarist Tyler Ramsey and wily keyboardist/guitarist Ryan Monroe. All these gents came packing soul.
Despite the band opening with two lesser-known tracks (Electric Music and Knock Knock) from their newly released fourth album, Mirage Rock, fans roared in raucous revelry. With phones and cameras out, these were the most excited 20- and 30-somethings in several square miles. And the band didn’t hold back on the hits, either. They gave away Compliments, No One’s Gonna Love You and Laredo within the first half of the show.
Alternating between songs from their back catalog of Everything All the Time, Infinite Arms and Cease to Begin showcased their distinct progression and diversity in sound. Sometimes they’re compared to The Allman Brothers and Eagles, although live they channeled The Black Keys and Fleet Foxes. But, mind you, they are their own breed, creating moments like in new song Everything’s Gonna Be Undone, where you felt as if you should be sitting on a front porch in the country, contemplating the world as the sun sets, only to be jerked to life in southern jam shakedown by the next song.
The deep, digging raw guitars pumped through the crowd, vibrating to the back of the room. Unfortunately, the blaring riffs unevenly outshone Bridwell’s piercing vocals, Monroe’s spectacular piano playing and Creighton Barrett’s solid drumming. It gradually improved, but not enough to fully balance out the equal parts.
Bridwell continually interacted with the audience. Overly eager fans cheering so much at break in The Great Salt Lake that Bridwell had to stop playing and said, “Goddamn,” before beginning again. After repeating our city name many times, he enlightened the crowd with a tidbit about “Tan Paws,” really old and elderly people in South Carolina who can’t do anything else so they lay on beach all day. Then he said, “So, I know what you’re going through.”
A special treat happened when they played Shut-In Tourist for the first time live, followed by Bridwell saying, “Remember that the first time we played that song was in Tampa.”
BoH only plugged four songs from the new album, fulfilling fan appetites for old favorites including Is There a Ghost, Older, Ode to LRC and The Funeral. The setlist also featured two covers: Chumming the Ocean by Archers of Loaf and a funky soul rendition (and closing song) of Am I A Good Man? by Them Two. Each band member approached it as a grand finale, with according instrument solos and jam-out denouements.
Doling out endless thank yous to the crowd, Bridwell’s genuine nature and mannerisms shone through his easily judged exterior. Out from the smoking singer came soaring, unbreaking, almost angelic inflections. His voice knows not its genre, and when he belts it out, mouth-wide open, crooked teeth showing, you know he’s harnessing the scale of some etherworld.
Not to mention the band obviously was having a blast. “Band” actually is the collective noun for horses, and this band had their own onstage language, interpersonal laughter and inside antics, which added to the down-home feel. You could just tell they were normal and authentic people. They even dedicated one of their encore songs, Infinite Arms, to their driver. They weren’t full of superiority or fame, or too good to play any of their popular songs. Combining their musical prowesses of twang, soul and rock, and coming at their fans with open arms, made for one heck of a showing.
— Stephanie Bolling, tbt*