On Sunday night, indie rock veterans Band of Horses stopped by the Fillmore Miami Beach for the last show on their 115-date “Why Are You OK” tour, and provided a pleasant but mostly unremarkable show.
After an opening set by fellow South Carolina group The Artisanals, Band of Horses took the stage at 9:10 to The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” before quickly slowing things down with a soft opening song that featured frontman Ben Bridwell on piano.
Band of Horses has always been a revolving door of musicians centered on songwriter Bridwell, and this was no different on Sunday night. The five-piece group featured two new contributors on bass and guitar following the departure of longtime members Tyler Ramsey and Bill Reynolds earlier this year.
With curtains blocking off most of the seating at the back of the venue’s bottom level, it was clear that the promoters weren’t expecting anywhere near a sold-out show. What they got instead was a noticeably smaller-than-usual crowd for the Fillmore, but one that was packed up towards the stage to create an unusual sense of intimacy for the venue.
Backed by a minimal light show and the band’s customary cursive script font on a large Irish flag behind them, Band of Horses bypassed flashy stage tricks in favor of a simple setup that placed the focus squarely on the music. As with its studio albums, the band used strong dynamic contrast to keep the crowd engaged and the show moving along. Each song had its own peaks and valleys, and with each upswing in volume and tempo the crowd became visibly more active and engaged.
Though the band was still promoting its most recent record, last year’s Why Are You OK, songs off of the group’s first two records, 2006’s Everything All the Time and 2007’s Cease to Begin, dominated the setlist. These were the tracks that received the most avid response from the crowd, many of whom seemed to be devoted fans.
A few songs into the show, Bridwell took time to speak to the audience, putting on a white trucker hat and telling the South Florida crowd “We’re feeling for y’all with all that storm stuff, and we hope you’re doing alright down here. Nothing but the best for you.”
The most interesting parts of the set came when the band occasionally lapsed into rocker excess, as with standout cut “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands,” which was a pleasant upswing in the middle of the show.
After closing the main set with “Is There a Ghost,” the encore brought a one-two punch of “The Funeral” and “The General Specific,” which produced a jovial ending for the 90-minute performance and seemed to validate the decision to stay late for many fans.
While Band of Horses tried admirably to maintain the attention of the crowd throughout the evening, the considerably thinner headcount by the start of the encore spoke volumes for the mindset of the audience. It was getting late on a Sunday night, and while it may have been fun, for many attendees it wasn’t worth getting stuck in traffic on the way out.