Band Of Horses @ The Enmore Theatre, Sydney (22/01/2013)

Change is generally a gradual thing for Band Of Horses.Despite numerous lineup changes, the band’s sound has evolved gradually over the course of their four albums – and it wasn’t exactly radical to begin with. It’s the archetypal American guitar band sound, which, really, could have come from any time since the early ‘70s: reverb, emotion and memorable melodies. Band Of Horses revel in the familiar.

Perhaps too familiar. You certainly don’t come to a Band Of Horses show expecting surprises. But frontman Ben Bridwell was full of enthusiasm at The Enmore Theatre (“I love the Enmore so much. We had such a fun time here last time”) and after opening the show with a brace of big tunes including ‘Islands On The Coast’ and ‘Laredo’, Bridwell expressed his desire to give the assembled army of loyal fans something a little bit different: “You know, we play the same songs so many damn times, so we’re gonna play some risky songs tonight for you – mix it up a bit”.

“Risky” is a relative thing in Band Of Horses’ world – we weren’t about to be treated to a set of Skrillex cover versions. What we did get is a handful of real rarities like ‘Window Blues’ from Cease To Begin and the oddly titled ‘I Go To The Barn Because I Like The’ from their debut record, with Bridwell noting “This is a song I’ve played maybe three, four times, like, ever”. Goodness knows why it comes out so rarely; played acoustically, it’s gorgeous, and one of the highlights of the night.

It quickly became clear that tonight was one of those nights where the band are going to go beyond their usual performance to deliver something a bit special. In addition to the rarities, the extra long, 25 song set, which lasted almost two hours, found room for all the band’s hits, including ‘The Funeral’, ‘Knock Knock’ and a lovely, stripped back version of ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’.

The band, spread out on the Enmore’s big stage, beneath an artful backdrop of a woodland scene, were all on top form musically, too, with Ryan Monroe frequently switching from keyboards to guitars to give an extra kick to the more straightforward rockers like ‘Is There A Ghost’ and ‘The Great Salt Lake’, and drummer Creighton Barrett filling gaps between songs with impressive drum solos. So it was a satisfied crowd who spilled out onto Enmore Road after a raucous take on ‘The General Specific’ concluded the night. We saw a band stepping a little outside their comfort zone and excitedly rediscovering corners of their history that had gone overlooked.