Band Of Horses at Vicar Street, Dublin, 15th February 2017

“Let’s start off mellow and work into a groove” says Ben Bridwell, Band Of Horses’ frontman, as they ease themselves into their brilliant set at Vicar Street at their first Dublin show in five years. It’s reflected in a full house and a fully engaged crowd. The “mellow start” doesn’t last long – they’ve come to rock. Cigarettes, Wedding Bands sounds crunchy and raw compared to its album counterpart.

The double-whammy of Compliments and Laredo from 2010’s Grammy-nominated ‘Infinite Arms’ add an almost pop-punk vibe to proceedings, with their repeating guitar riffs and spot-on vocal harmonies. Bridwell struggles to keep his trademark baseball cap on his head such is his enthusiasm at times. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe almost sounds like Dolly Parton with his high-pitched, country-tinged harmonies, particularly on the country-stomp of Throw My Mess.

Throughout, Bridwell seems to be enjoying himself immensely. Perhaps it’s the buzz of the first night of a European tour, but it’s a high-energy set nonetheless. Islands On The Coast from ‘Cease To Begin’ sees the baseball cap go flying again. The Great Salt Lake from ‘Everything All The Time’ sounds epic and almost like a set closer. It’s quality song after quality song.

To break up the set, Bridwell gives a solo acoustic rendition of St. Augustine and there is rapt silence throughout. Then he is joined by Monroe and Tyler Ramsey, the hulking guitarist, for a beautiful rendition of Part One, tight enough that it’s obviously been rehearsed but loose enough that it hasn’t been over-rehearsed.

Perhaps inevitably there is a lull in the set, and also perhaps inevitable is the fact that three of the four songs that make up this lull in proceedings are from new album ‘Why Are You OK’. That’s not a slight on the album, which is a considerable return to form after 2012’s dud ‘Mirage Rock’ (no songs from that album featured in the setlist), but more of an inevitability of the human temperament. Bunching the songs together probably doesn’t help. A euphoric version of The General Specific rouses everyone again before the break.

Band Of Horses have obviously read our helpful guide on how play a successful encore, because after just about the right amount of time, they return with Is There A Ghost and The Funeral. A perfect ending to an almost perfect set.

Photo Tripod – 4th July 2010