The soaring vocals you hear from Ben Bridwell on the Band of Horses records are exactly what you get live, as impressively displayed once again Sunday night at Stage AE.
What people might not expect from Band of Horses is how much the band rocks live. And the volume at which it does. It was no surprise that it inserted Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Powderfinger” into the set.
We last saw BOH when it opened for My Morning Jacket on the outdoor side of the venue two years ago. This time, Band of Horses, still touring post-“Mirage Rock,” did an expanded set indoors with an acoustic version of Midlake.
Over four albums, Band of Horses has straddled a line between epic shoegazer-ish indie-rock and a folk-rock revival approach, giving it a healthy flexibility live. Textured beauties like “Factory” and “Is There a Ghost” are set aside flat-out rockers like “NW Apt.,” which was delivered with punk fury.
The harmonies are in beautiful hands with Bridwell and Tyler Ramsey, a (super tall!) singer-guitarist who is a force on his own (check out his stunning solo album “A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea”).
Singers with the high lonesome range of Bridwell tend to be aloof frontmen. He is anything but, with a friendly, happy, energetic stage presence. After a few songs, his hair was soaked with sweat.
The band, which is working on a new album, put “Mirage Rock” aside to focus on the first three records, with such favorites as the slow, folky “Marry Song,” the lush “No One’s Gonna Love You,” poppier “Weed Party” and rushing beauties “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” and “The Funeral.”
The encore had Bridwell on slide for “Monsters” and “The First Song,” just adding another element to the band’s immense talent.
Opening was a depleted Midlake, playing as an acoustic trio and minus departed frontman Tim Smith. If you weren’t familiar with the Denton, Texas, band’s personnel, you might not notice much difference. Singer-guitarist Eric Pulido steps in nicely, leading the band’s warm, mid-range harmonies, at their best on “Head Home” and “Roscoe.” Jesse Chandler fleshed out the earthy sound on keyboards and flute, and Joey McClellan handled the guitar leads. Midlake capped its set with a cover of the Dylan/Band song “I Shall Be Released.”
BAND OF HORSES SETLIST
Islands on the Coast
No One’s Gonna Love You
Everything’s Gonna Be Undone
Ode to LRC
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
Powderfinger (Neil Young cover)
The Great Salt Lake
Is There a Ghost
The First Song
The General Specific