A Thousand Horses
The Barfly London 15th March 2016
By Jessica Edwards
After a string of performances at Country to Country Festival at The O2 in London, A Thousand Horses gave their UK debut headline gig at The Barfly in Camden. The crowd was certainly a little different from those who saw them perform at C2C, with only one cowboy hat in sight; plaid shirts were swapped for black leather jackets. As the band has been play listed on rock radio stations in the UK this was perhaps an opportunity for fans that wouldn’t necessarily attend C2C to see them perform.
The first indication of how intimate this concert might be was when the band had to make their entrance through the crowd to get to the stage. This perhaps takes away some of that excitement you get when the stage lights go up and you see a band emerge onto a stage for the first time. However this did not stop A Thousand Horses from bursting on to the stage with energy that instantly had the crowd banging their heads along.
Their opening songs ‘Southernality’ and ‘Landslide’ showcased them as true Southern Rockers. Lead singer Michael Hobby is an incredible front man with a gravely voice that will get your heart pumping on the fast songs and soothe your soul during a ballad.
His height alone commands your attention and his simple combination of a black fedora with a feather and buttoned down shirt create a natural rock star style. While the stage may not have allowed Michael to move around as much as I have seen previously he was just as entertaining to watch confined to jumping in one spot. One of the things that I enjoy most about watching him perform is his unique ability to smile as he is singing; you can tell how much he enjoys performing. The small venue allowed for plenty of eye contact and interaction between the band and the audience, an intimate experience that would be lost on a bigger stage.
Their third song ‘Heaven Is Close’ was a great example of how their songs come to life live. ‘Drunk Dial’, beginning with an extended fiddle solo began to bring the Country into their set with Michael joining in on acoustic guitar. Michael explained how this was a special night for them to be in the UK doing their first headline show and we were treated to a brand new song ‘Up For Anything’.
One of the main highlights of their set was when the band chose to pay tribute to one of the UK’s own greatest bands with a cover of The Rolling Stone’s ‘Dead Flowers’. The song had a different energy with guitarist Zach Brown taking the lead on vocals and I couldn’t help but enjoy watching Michael mouthing the words along with the crowd away from the microphone. ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ was the loudest sing along of the night and ‘Travelling Man’ allowed all of the band to showcase their talents with extended solo’s including Michael shredding on the harmonica. The pace was slowed down a little for my personal favourite song from their album ‘Back To Me’. Dedicating the song to all girls in the audience from a small town, this song really showcased Michael’s ability to express emotion with his voice.
One of the things that I think makes A Thousand Horses so unique and entertaining to watch is the addition of their female backing singers. Their vocals add so much soulful depth to the songs, which came to a peak on the soulful ‘Sunday Morning’. The ladies are mesmerising to watch, their choreographed dancing seems free and easy and brings so much extra energy to the bands stage presence as a whole. My one criticism of the night would be that with the stage being so small the ladies were hidden slightly behind guitarist Bill Satcher.
Before launching in to their biggest hit ‘Smoke’, Michael explained that this song was important to them as it was their first radio single and hit song in the U.S and that it would be their next UK single. With how global music is these days I would normally disagree with releasing a UK single a year after its release in the U.S. However I really think that Smoke is the perfect single to break out A Thousand Horses here. The most magical moment of the night was seeing the crowd light up their phones and sway along to the final chorus.
Michael expressed how excited they were to be performing in the UK and how grateful they were for everyone who came out to see them, with it being their first time in the UK ‘First Time’ was definitely the perfect song to end the set with. As the stage was too small for the band to exit and re-enter for a traditional encore they simply asked the crowd if we wanted to hear some more songs. To which we of course answered yes with loud cheers. ‘Hell On My Heart’ once again slowed things down a little and showcased Michael’s vocals before ending with a superb cover of The Black Crowes ‘Hard To Handle’ with the whole crowd singing along.
With music that is the perfect combination of rock, soul, blues and country, A Thousand Horses have picked up fans in both Country and Rock on their first visit ‘across the pond’. The ability to appeal to fans of different genres I believe will make them a big success in the UK and with the promise that they will be back I can truly see their fan base growing here with every visit. Those who attended the show at The Barfly should consider themselves lucky to have seen this amazing band in such an intimate setting. I for one cannot wait for their return.
Heaven Is Close
Up For Anything
Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones Cover)
Back To Me
Hell on My Heart
Hard To Handle (Black Crowes Cover)