Band of Horses in Boston

Matthew Shelter on December 22, 2011

Band of Horses
Paradise Rock Club
Boston, MA
December 12

You know that nice group of fine young men known as Band of Horses, the ones who sing those beautiful songs, with all those gorgeous high harmonies, and the slightly quirky lyrics? Well, be forewarned: when you see them live, that group gets replaced by a bunch of street thugs who play scorched-earth rock and roll. It’s as if you went to a church cathedral expecting to hear an especially promising chorale group, and when the house lights went down the choirboys came at you with switchblades and baseball bats and beat the living shit out of you. That’s Band of Horses live.

These guys have been playing a lot of arena shows this year, opening for bands such as My Morning Jacket and Kings of Leon. At the Paradise in Boston Monday night, they seemed to take all the energy and sonic sprawl needed to fill a 19,000-seat arena and unleashed it inside the much smaller confines of a 900-person rock club.

They opened the show with “NW Apt.,” off of last year’s Infinite Arms, and then roared through a 17-song set list that was like a runaway freight train. Of particular note was the rhythm section of Creighton Barrett on drums and Bill Reynolds on bass. When I think of Band of Horses on album, drums is not the first thing that comes to mind. On stage, though, Barrett and Reynolds were fierce. You could feel them in your chest; I felt at times like the guy in the old Maxell tape ads, sitting in front of the speaker and getting blown backwards by the sound (young people: you can probably track this ad down with one of your fancy search engines, like “Ask Jeeves” ).

The set list drew heavily from the band’s second album, 2007’s Cease to Begin, including “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands,” “Is There a Ghost,” “Marry Song,” “The General Specific,” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” . They plucked a handful of tracks from their debut album, Everything All the Time (including “The Great Salt Lake,” “Weed Party,” and, as encore, “The Funeral” ), and featured four other songs from Infinite Arms, including “Compliments,” “Laredo,” “Older,” and the title track. The song “Infinite Arms” was one of many highlights of the night, as the band moved into something like Pink Floyd territory, with guitarists Ben Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey, keyboardist Ryan Monroe and bassist Reynolds forming a ringing wall of sound that they stretched toward infinity before coming back down to earth. Monroe’s lead singing on “Older” was another treat. They closed the main set with “Am I A Good Man,” a cover of an old soul track by the group Them Two.

Bridwell, the band’s frontman, could not get over the enthusiasm of the high-energy crowd, asking at one point, “Is Boston always like this on a Monday night?” Um, well, when we’re seeing a great show it is.

Tyler Ramsey, who joined Band of Horses in 2007, also served as the opening act for the evening, featuring tracks off his recently released solo album The Valley Wind. Now he actually seemed like a nice young man; how he got mixed up with those other four ruffians I have no idea.