The 325,000 or so tourists descending on Las Vegas for Memorial Day weekend could’ve learned from Band of Horses. Pace yourself. Let things build to a crescendo. Don’t fling yourself head first into the madness.
This appeared to be the alternative-rock act’s approach Friday night at the Chelsea, as it opened with two downtempo tracks (“Monsters” and “Marry Song”), rose with “The Great Salt Lake” and “NW Apt.” and crested with “Is There a Ghost.” It finally broke with “The Funeral,” which, to extend the party-weekend metaphor, was a drunken double backflip off a third-floor balcony railing with the whole pool party looking on in awe.
The trip, however, did have its down points. “Laredo” felt flat, and scrawny, tattooed bandleader Ben Bridwell seemed tired at times. “Y’all gotta forgive me,” he asked of the crowd shortly into the set. “My voice is garbage and so am I.” Buoyed by passion and Southern charm, Bridwell’s cock crow always rebounded, and versatile bandmate Ryan Monroe provided strong vocal support.
After a rare one-song encore—jamboree-style “The General Specific,” which featured Bridwell beating a tambourine with a drumstick and Monroe stabbing at the keys—it was clear, even through the early haze: Band of Horses had produced a near-perfect set … and provided a blueprint for the holiday weekend.