Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:28AM - 529 Views

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Ben Bridwell, lead singer of Americana rock group Band of Horses, called Philadelphia ‚??a cool town‚?Ě during its Dec. 14 show. The quintet ‚?? Bill Reynolds on bass, Ryan Monroe on keys, Creighton Barrett on drums, Tyler Ramsey on lead guitar, and Bridwell on guitar and vocals ‚?? returned to the cool town of Philly on Friday to play an explosive show at the Electric Factory.
Band of Horses hit Philly at the tail end of their U.S. tour, following the September 2012 release of ‚??Mirage Rock.‚?Ě Their latest album, notably produced by Glyn Johns, was praised for its move toward a polished, marketable alt country vibe, which I touched upon in the Weekender‚??s recent review of the album. But the recording is muted in comparison to their spirited performance at the Electric Factory. Band of Horses commanded the venue, stripped down the production imposed by the album, and built their tunes back up to a warm, nuanced fuzz.
Warm light spilled over the stage as Barrett‚??s kick drum laid the steady beat of ‚??Monsters,‚?Ě off BOH‚??s debut album, ‚??Everything All the Time.‚?Ě Like little upstage fires, the lights blazed as Bridwell intoned, ‚??When awful people they surround you / well ain‚??t they just like monsters.‚?Ě The warmth of guitar filled the venue as the organ‚??s notes carried Bridwell‚??s soothing vocals over the audience during an up-tempo rendition of ‚??Neighbor.‚?Ě The ‚??Infinite Arms‚?Ě hit built to a burst of Barrett‚??s drums with cymbals lingering into ‚??Compliments,‚?Ě off the same album. Bridwell, smiling, took a playful approach to the choral ‚??oooohs‚?Ě while Ramsey led a brief electric jam. Their spirited, compelling energy was harnessed and sustained throughout the entire 22-song set.
Bright reds bled onto the stage for the drum-heavy intro to ‚??Cigarettes, Wedding Bands.‚?Ě Bridwell took his tenor to Geddy Lee heights over wailing guitars and the ring of choral sing-along. The chaotic clamor paused for a breath of silence before charging into ‚??Infinite Arms‚?Ě hit ‚??Laredo.‚?Ě Images of deserts, mountains, and down-home shacks flashed behind them as the audience attempted to join Bridwell into the heights of his ‚??oooohs.‚?Ě An uplifting, charged ‚??The Great Salt Lake‚?Ě led into a bouncy ‚??Islands on the Coast‚?Ě with bright vibrato reminiscent of Arcade Fire‚??s ‚??The Suburbs.‚?Ě Monroe‚??s keys brought ‚??NW Apt.‚?Ě to a boil in a wild instrumental ‚?? peppered by Bridwell‚??s jaunty twang, emphatically repeating ‚??northwest apart-mi-ent‚?Ě ‚?? and ended with guitarist Ramsey on his knees.
The band took their first breather of the night after fan favorite ‚??Is There a Ghost.‚?Ě As Bridwell slapped his trucker hat back on, he mused, ‚??This place is awesome!‚?Ě Two guitars opened the hook of 2012‚??s ‚??Slow Cruel Hands of Time.‚?Ě The ballad picked up with keys and drums, going into a jazzy interlude before the next song. ‚??Older‚?Ě highlighted keyboardist Monroe‚??s vocal melody as images of inverted waterfalls mimicked lyrics. Bridwell led the audience in a clap-along, closing the song with a lengthy harmony. Quick guitar chords led to southern rock ditty ‚??Electric Music‚?Ě as Bridwell‚??s vocals wove in and out like a pickup truck through a cornfield and revved heavier than the ‚??Mirage Rock‚?Ě recording.
Further improvisation breathed new life to ‚??Dilly,‚?Ě with heavy reverb and layered three-part harmonies, and a slow, sorrowful ‚??Window Blues,‚?Ě with wailing coyote guitar and gospel vibrato reminiscent of Dr. Dog‚??s ‚??Shame, Shame.‚?Ě Monroe‚??s carnival-esque keys broke into Carolinian riffs on ‚??Everything‚??s Gonna Be Undone,‚?Ě pierced by Bridwell‚??s tambourine. Heavy drums, guitar, and a whooping cry of, ‚??Whooo! Weed party!‚?Ě introduced the quick jam off 2006‚??s ‚??Everything All the Time.‚?Ě ‚??Knock Knock,‚?Ě the opener on ‚??Mirage Rock,‚?Ě boasted sharp lead guitar that melted into feedback under Bridwell‚??s final ‚??oooohs.‚?Ě The soulful keys and sturdy guitar of ‚??Ode to LRC‚?Ě energized the venue, uniting band and crowd in a singsong chorus of ‚??la-dee-das.‚?Ě
Delicate piano cradled Bridwell‚??s earnest vocals, echoed by mic reverb and a haunting audience during poignant single ‚??The Funeral.‚?Ě Bridwell delivered a lullaby of ‚??oooohs‚?Ě before cueing a head-banging, instrumental thunder, then moved toward Ramsey to strum a few of the guitarist‚??s strings. Barrett finished the song with explosive drums and, patting each other on the back, the band left the stage over buzzing feedback. Bridwell shouted, ‚??We‚??ll come back and play more in a second, after we stop.‚?Ě
As promised, the quintet played a rousing encore. The audience swayed to a tender rendition of ‚??No One‚??s Gonna Love You,‚?Ě followed by the beloved Gram Parsons tune ‚??A Song for You.‚?Ě Band of Horses ended the night with ‚??The General Specific,‚?Ě an upbeat hand-clapper off 2007‚??s ‚??Cease to Begin.‚?Ě Secure in their musicianship, in touch with the crowd, and heavy on camaraderie, Band of Horses brought their fraternal southern rock to the City of Brotherly Love.

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