To the untrained eye Manchester Ritz is a grubby, grim and off-putting venue. However for an act such as Band of Horses it feels quite apt. Not that the American quintet aren’t a slick and well oiled machine, just that the Ritz radiates a certain authenticity that matches the band’s; that despite steadily growing in popularity in recent years – something that will only continue given the quality and pop-ier leaning of recent third offering ‘Infinite Arms’, they have managed to maintain credibility on the Alt / Americana circuit.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that there is an interesting atmosphere in the venue; despite being a sellout, there’s still a feeling that everyone in the room loves this band, and are not here just to check out the latest hotly tipped act. The show starts with frontman Ben Bridwell solemnly taking to the stage, in a casual and understated way. Opening with ‘Ode To The LRC’, he’s joined by the rest of the band mid song. Followed by ‘Wicked Gil’ and, a few songs later on, ‘Cigarettes, Wedding Bands’, anyone fearing the set might be dominated by new material can breath a sigh of relief.
Of course material from ‘Infinite Arms’ does make up a healthy portion of the set, with lead single ‘Compliments’, and album highlights ‘Factory’, ‘Laredo’ and ‘For Annabelle’ seamlessly fitting in alongside favourites such as ‘Is There A Ghost’ and ‘The Great Salt Lake’. There’s no question as to whether Band Of Horses have the songs, but what they also have in Bridwell is a charismatic and engaging frontman; the heavily bearded singer simply shrugging off a mistake during the timeless ‘The Funeral’, to much amusement, before launching back into where he left off.
A generous four song encore followed, rounded off by the always superb ‘The General Specific’, and a cover of Them Two’s ‘Am I A Good Man’. As a more than satisfied Ritz pours out, you can’t help but feel you’ve seen something a little bit special. One of the most promising acts around.