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Band of Horses light up a rainy evening in Davis

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It would be easy for many loyal concert-going aficionados to have a beef with what Band of Horses does not do when it plays live – and that beef might be legitimate.

A Band of Horses concert is a little like going to a gourmet restaurant and ordering a meal made entirely of ingredients you have in your own fridge. It’s hard to shake that little snarky voice in the back of your head that’s reminding you that you already have all this stuff. But the reality is, you’re going to have it simmered and served up better than you could get it left to your own devices.

Band of Horses’ sonic feast of a set Thursday night at UC Davis’ Freeborn Hall was heavy on familiarity, but equally heavy on refined precision and impassioned flair.

Blasting off a little after 9:30 p.m. after opening sets from Willoughby and local instrumental wizards Life in 24 Frames, the by-the-book (“book” meaning “album”) nature of the set was established immediately with rowdy takes on “The Great Salt Lake” and the blood-rushing guitar anthem “Is There a Ghost” and its wall-of-sound crescendo.

Playfully teasing what they assumed to be a college-aged crowd about being “done with classes,” B.O.H. wasted no time in showing off the three biggest block bangers from its glistening new record, “Infinite Arms.”

The triple-guitar slaughterhouse of “Nw Apt” and the anthemic “Compliments” are two of the album’s most up-tempo electric rock ballads, and if there is indeed a better top-down, wind-in-your-hair, beer-in-a-Nalgene, road-tripping song than “Laredo” that’s been penned in the last five years, I’d love to hear it.

It was at this point in the show where the sense of wonder began to set in; that is, audience members may have been pondering at what point the band would cut loose and venture away from the song formulas laid forth in studio efforts, jam it out and explore some uncharted territory.

It didn’t happen.

Many albums are a delight to listen to over and over, but in a live show you expect a band with this kind of talent to grace audiences with sounds they haven’t heard.

Aside from the interlude of each song sounding like it could have been a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them,” courtesy of Ryan Monroe laying down an acid-washed Hammond wail, the tunes remained formulaic throughout the set.

That said, the musical prowess and proficiency of this band is nothing short of surgical, with lead singer Ben Bridwell showing off pipes that would appear to require little or no touching up in the studio. His vocals went straight for the gut of each adoring fan.

Monroe is the band’s unsung hero, toggling between guitar, keyboard and primary backing vocals; the Robin to Bridwell’s Batman, minus the tights and bad catchphrases.

Even the slower songs reverbed with plush gusto, with “Marry Song,” the Gram Parsons-esque humdinger “Older,” and the emotionally searing “The Funeral” standing out as memorable performances – and that’s not to mention a frisky cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

Taking the main set home with the bouncy quasi-acoustic ballad “The General Specific,” B.O.H. wrapped things up by granting requests from the faithful for “No One’s Gonna Love You” as part of a four-song encore.

The band’s progression to the next level, where “Infinite Arms” is sure to take them, will be interesting to follow. It will be fun to see if the musicians can become a band that can stretch out the jams, or will remain faithful to their already established studio formula when playing live.

Either way, it’s hard to go wrong.

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