What is it about Band of Horses that brings all the Gen X'ers to the yard? Is it the sweet, oceanic waves of haunting guitar that found Saturday night's show at The Cosmopolitan's pool consisting largely of those in their fourth decade? The heartfelt, lonesome lyrics? The absurdly charming Ben Bridwell at the helm, his cigarette leaking smoke in one hand as he clutches the microphone in the other? Its safe but commendably indie wheelhouse, increasingly alt-country as the move from Seattle to South Carolina slowly digs hooks into its hive mind — even though the older stuff is, by cursory poll, like, so much better?
Since these are more or less rhetorical questions, it was all of those things. And consequently, why every other generation present (X, Y AND Z!) dug the hell out of them, too. For a show that started somewhat unsuccessfully — sorry, Pete Yorn, we just couldn't get down with your J.D. King-partnered group The Olms, and all its dull, sort of revivalist songs apt for station wagon or life insurance commercials — Band of Horses knew the secret to keeping a crowd, even one that would've probably been in bed an hour or so before the band finally dropped audience (world?) fave "The Funeral," involved and attentive: front man Ben Bridwell epitomizes that nice dude down the street who'd mow your lawn if you broke your foot. He frequently turned to his bandmates to chat and introduce (to lead guitar player Tyler Ramsey: "All right Tyler, you and me, buddy"). And goddamnit if he didn't push himself, more than he really had to. During "NW Apt," maybe 45 minutes into the set, his voice started to go. Which would be a problem for any singer. But especially for one who clearly writes higher than he can go comfortably. Like, if he can sing three octaves, the last few notes would all have asterisks beside them. And as it happens, more often than not, that's where the last few songs lived, right in the penthouse of Bridwell's vocal range. It didn't stop him, despite wincing through "No One's Gonna Love You," the aforementioned "The Funeral" and encores "Older" and "The General Specific." And it kept the crowd singing along and falling in love with him, which, upon reading over what I've thus far written, I seem to have done as well.
It's so refreshing to see a band that doesn't go out of its way to "Vegas Up" a performance. Two members wore T-shirts. Others wore things you'd find at thrift stores. There was no fire. Very minor lighting effects and absolutely no gimmicks. And the crowd loved it. Which is probably a testament to the kick-ass degree of the audience, singing along to almost everything, which mostly consisted of the older, less-country, more loved albums ("Is There a Ghost," "Weed Party," "Factory," which Bridwell dedicated to a girl for her birthday, which was requested by her friend in New York, "Marry Song," a bunch of others).
While this didn't have the party-hardy factor of other shows this week, it certainly exemplified what bands and crowds should be in Las Vegas — comfortable and respectful, respectively.