It is very uncommon in this day and age of digital file sharing and pirating that a band would drum up so much anticipation for a live record when their fans could easily find a bootleg of a particular gig online. For Band of Horses, the release of their first live record came with that uncommon anticipation, simply because it was much more than just a live record. It was the songs their fans knew by heart but totally stripped down and redone into something new. Right before Valentine's Day, the band released Acoustic at the Ryman, the album was recorded the year before inside Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium and now, Band of Horses are on the road recreating that special night they captured on audio and bringing it to their fans.
On a very cold Friday night, fans gathered at iconic Times Square venue, Town Hall, to catch Band of Horses in one of the most intimate, relaxed and beautiful settings they could ever wish to see this band. Arriving on stage just after 9p.m., singer Ben Bridwell walked out with an acoustic guitar and stood in front of a lonely microphone and greeted the crowd, "Hi, everyone. I am Ben of Horses, Band of Horses will soon join me."
Opening with "St. Augustine," Bridwell set the tone and idea that this is not going to be what fans came to expect right away. As soon as he strummed his last note, he was then joined by guitarist Tyler Ramsey and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe to back him on a few tunes and while it was slowly coming to look like Band of Horses on stage, the trio, thanks to their clothes and facial hair looked like the Soggy Bottom Boys out of The Coen Brothers classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? as they huddled around the mic. After a handful of songs together, they were finally joined by bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett and sat on stools, chairs, in a setting that featured desk lamps, coffee tables with bottles of wine and glasses around them as they began to play. It looked as if we were invited to watch them in their living room, a very large living room, but such a unique setting to see this extraordinary band. As they reworked classic tracks like "Laredo," "Compliments," "No One's Gonna Love You," "Funeral," "Dilly," "The Great Salt Lake," and "Is There A Ghost," it was familiar to Nirvana's classic MTV Unplugged performance where they altered and stripped songs fans would never expect and altered them. With hilarious on stage banter and a casual disposition ignited from every band member, it was a different side of the band that fans had never seen before.
After nearly two hours on stage, Band of Horses retreated to the wings and left fans content and uplifted. In any setting, Band of Horses are a great live band. Yet, these acoustic shows are something more. They are something that will be remembered for years to come, simply for the fact that it showed how good these guys are at their craft. They can't hide behind the feedback and reverb of their electric instruments, they are vulnerable and naked on stage and manage to prove why the anticipation of a Band of Horses live record was a big deal.