Band of Horses at State Theatre, 07/17/10

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Photos by Steve Cohen
Band of Horses
July 17, 2010
State Theatre


When Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell took to the stage Saturday night at the State Theatre and announced "my voice is a bit shot tonight," I was worried that we might have another calamity-plagued performance like their show at First Avenue a few years back. But even though it took the band a few songs to hit their stride, and Bridwell's voice did sound a bit worse for wear due to this being their last show on their current U.S. tour, the performance eventually coalesced quite nicely and Band of Horses delivered a rousing 90-minute set full of stirring songs and rousing anthems.

When a band makes the jump from the clubs to the theaters, it's interesting to note how that shift affects their live show and what changes they make to fill up the larger stage. Band of Horses added a giant backdrop behind the stage that had stunning pictures of dramatic nature scenes that transformed along with the music, only serving to augment their songs about travel and the outdoors. But it did take a while for the band to settle in to the size of the theater, and fittingly enough it was a Replacements cover that provided the show with its first real spark. Bridwell proclaimed that "it is such an honor to have a star up on First Avenue's wall. It's great to be part of the tradition of that place, and we'll try and live up to it." And with that, the band proceeded to tear into a thrilling version of the Mats classic "Can't Hardly Wait," that got a good portion of the seated audience on their feet. And by the time "Is There A Ghost" finished two songs later, everyone was standing for good and the show truly took off.

The set was a generous mix of the band's three albums, with a good chunk of the songs coming from the recently released Infinite Arms, which Bridwell claimed was written while he briefly lived in Minnesota, adding that "it's so nice to play these songs where they were born." The new songs were given an added potency in the live setting, and fit in seamlessly with the bands older material. It was their last U.S. date before they were due to head to Australia, so the backdrop fittingly became filled with snapshots of their recent tour while they played a spirited version of "Islands On The Coast" that was one of the sets highlights. And the main set closed with a strong trio of songs, "The General Specific," "No One's Gonna Love You," and "The Funeral" that really found the band at their best.

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Photos by Steve Cohen
If the band didn't make it clear how thankful they were to have a star at First Ave, they had a picture of it projected onto the backdrop during the break, and left it up there proudly during a moving version of "Neighbor" which kicked off the encore. Band of Horses solidified their bond with Minneapolis by covering "Blue" by the Jayhawks, delivering an inspired rendition that exemplified just how much the music of this city has influenced Bridwell and his songwriting. It was a classy touch that went a long way towards making this show memorable. "Weed Party" was the perfect follow-up, and the band closed with a raucous version of "Monsters" with Ben on pedal steel guitar. The stellar encore ended the show perfectly, and proved that even though Band of Horses have made the transition to a much larger stage, the emotion and spirit of their impassioned songs still rings loud and clear.

Critic's Bias: A big fan of their first two records, and am now coming around on their third album after this great performance.
The Crowd: Once everyone stood up, the show definitely took off.
Overheard In The Crowd: "It takes talent to carry that many Heineken's at once."
Random Notebook Dump: Bridwell respectfully dedicated "Can't Hardly Wait" to "Sonia (Grover) and all the good people over at First Avenue." A classy move.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Steve Cohen.

Setlist:

Ode To LRC
Factory
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
Marry Song
Older
Can't Hardly Wait (Replacements)
Laredo
Is There A Ghost
The Great Salt Lake
NW Apt.
Islands On The Coast
Blue Beard
Compliments
The General Specific
No One's Gonna Love You
The Funeral
  Encore:
Neighbor
Blue (Jayhawks)
Weed Party
Monsters

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