There are certain tricks storytellers use, moves that keep the audience's minds or livers from getting anxious and hitting the bar. Band of Horses owns a heavy arsenal of those tricks -- but we'll get to that shortly.
Co., the opening act last night at the Ogden, hasn't really mastered them. The band -- which hails from South Carolina and boasts the least Google-able name in Internet-era rock -- sounded good enough, mixing southern indie-rock fare with some bluesier stuff.
Their drummer was worth keeping an ear on, and the frontman was charming enough. But their songs sort of droned, and so did their set -- same sounds, same song lengths, same rhythms, Maybe I'll check my phone, I think need a beer, When do the headliners come on? That's the life of an opener, I guess, but you root for bands to overcome that. Co. didn't.
Eventually Band of Horses' scruffy frontman Ben Bridwell strolled out, stripped off his jacket and went to work: "We should go ahead and get started, I guess."
The crowd was ready by then. (The crowd was also tied for whitest I've ever seen with a Conor Oberst show. It was like a How I Met Your Mother cast party, but with lots of girls with Xs drawn on their hands -- always a nice reminder that you're not that cool anymore).
They opened with -- hey! -- "The First Song," which is a testament to their storytelling skills and was microcosmic of their set: It starts lullaby-slow and builds toward a crescendo somewhere toward the end, then winds down gently through the encore.
The band worked flawlessly through the familiar tracks from their first two albums -- "Great Salt Lake," "Is There a Ghost," "No One's Gonna Love You," etc. The set hit its giant, wave-crashing peak that had the aforementioned X-Women shedding tears on the edge of the stage with "The Funeral," which is lovely little mindfuck when you think about it.
Here's this song about a daily obsession with death -- this song that, if you listen to it enough and at the right times, will rip your heart out and use it for a game of Wiffle Ball -- and it was the ass-shaking peak of the night, the one song that had everyone relinquishing control of their limbs and happily flinging sweat onto their neighbors.
This song should leave you hiding under your bed, and instead it does this? Don't let the ironic facial hair fool you: These are pros at work. From front to back, it was the work of tacticians: Bridwell's disarmingly high-pitched voice filled the Ogden without overwhelming it, and he harmonized perfectly with his bandmates. And song-selection-wise, every lull was followed by a burst, every uppercut comboed with a light jab.
That pattern continued through "Ode to LRC," which could probably play over the ending credits of every non-John Singleton movie made in the next five years -- and is another song that stands out for its sweeping emotional arc. They're little stories, these songs, and you don't have to understand a single word to follow along.
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The show ended with a thee-song encore (see the set list below), during which I saw more tears flowing from the eyes of young fans. The whole thing made me wish I was a teenage girl again.