Sunday, May 16, 2010

Band of Horses @ Newbury Comics

The record shop in-store appearance is a great concept, at least in theory. Sometimes, it's a great concept in practice as well, like when Paul Westerberg played the Virgin Megastore on Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue, back when he was supporting Stereo in 2002. That intimate acoustic affair, which lasted just over an hour and included a great selection of solo and Replacements material, as well as a couple of covers, set the bar high for in-store performances for me.

I certainly don't expect anything to ever match that show, so this afternoon's Band of Horses outing at the flagship location of Newbury Comics was far from a disappointment. After all, it's really a great idea to offer a chance for fans to witness a 30-40 minute set from a band in exchange for paying a bargain price of $7.99 for their CD. It's especially ingenious to offer such a deal when the band's indie rock following doesn't want, or can't afford, to pay to see them open for Pearl Jam on a tour that stops at Boston's TD Garden tomorrow night.

Their set consisted of four tracks from their new album, Infinite Arms, two from 2007's Cease to Begin, and a couple of well chosen covers: The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," which had younger fans scrambling to identify it; and Gram Parsons' "A Song for You," which apparently bored said younger fans enough to talk through it. The latter situation, of course, is something you'd better be prepared to endure if you plan to go to any show in this town.

Of course, the drawback to such shows is that record stores are not music venues, and it's not the acoustics that I'm complaining about here. It's just that 175 people crowding down two aisles separated by CD racks doesn't really allow for very many people to have a good view of the performers. Still, this show was worth the investment of a couple hours of time on a late Sunday afternoon, and this type of event is further evidence of how this regional independent record store chain is remaining vital while most of its counterparts have failed.

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