After two on-air radio appearances earlier in the day plus three months of steady touring, Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell easily could have been forgiven for suffering a strained voice Saturday at the State Theatre.
The sold-out Minneapolis crowd didn’t just forgive him, though. They rejoiced in his failings.
Another example of imperfections being a key ingredient in rock ’n’ roll, Bridwell’s struggles to sing an unplugged version of “No One’s Gonna Love You” in the latter half of Saturday’s nearly two-hour performance turned into the highlight of the night, and reiterated the deep love for the band locally.
The South Carolinan rocker — who’s married to a Minnesotan and has spent ample time here — urged fans to help him carry the tender song to the finish line, and they did so with a voracity that, for a couple minutes anyway, softened the harsh cynicism of this past election week.
Saturday’s concert was rolling along just fine if not as sensationally before that goosebump-inducing moment. Hints of Bridwell’s vocal issues were pretty well buried beneath Band of Horses’ wall of two to three guitars early in the set during such barnstormers as “The Great Salt Lake,” “Islands on the Coast” and an especially feisty “Casual Party,” the latter a single from the quintet’s June-issued fifth LP, “Why Are You OK.”
While the new album stands up well amid the group’s best work, it played a relatively minor role in Saturday’s set list.
One of the new highlights was guitarist Tyler Ramsey’s turn on lead vocals in “Country Teen,” a song that demonstrated how well Band of Horses blends in its twangy Americana influences while playing the Pixies/Nirvana loud-quiet-loud sonic game in concert. Much louder, “In a Drawer” also earned a rave response toward the end of the set and nicely prefaced a blistering version of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger,” played in tribute to Young’s 71st birthday.
With the impromptu singalong of “No One’s Gonna Love You” leading the way, Saturday’s concert relied most heavily on Band of Horses’ 2007 sophomore album, “Cease to Begin” — and that, too, was just fine by the fans.
The crowd also sang out loudly in the encore during “Is There a Ghost” and “The General Specific,” and a large, timely cheer rose up in “Detlef Schrempf” when Bridwell intoned, “Watch how you treat every living soul.” Minneapolis certainly earned some nice payback for treating Bridwell well when he needed it.
Here’s the set list from Saturday’s Band of Horses set:
- 1. For Annabelle
- 2. The Great Salt Lake
- 3. Casual Party
- 4. Islands on the Coast
- 5. Marry Song
- 6. Laredo
- 7. Country Teen
- 8. Throw My Mess
- 9. Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
- 10. Detlef Schrempf
- 11. The Funeral
- 12. Ode to LRC
- 13. St. Augustine
- 14. No One’s Gonna Love You
- 15. Part One
- 16. In a Drawer
- 17. Powderfinger (Neil Young cover)
- 18. Hag
- 19. The End’s Not Near (The New Year cover)
- 20. Weed Party
- 21. Is There a Ghost
- 22. The General Specific