I’m going to reveal a secret right now that I’m sure plenty can identify with, but that may still put me into the minority of music listeners: There absolutely is a thing as being too good.
A Thousand Horses unquestionably falls into this category. Recorded, their music is polished, doesn’t come near toeing the line that anyone may find offensive, and presents a faux-vintage country aesthetic from their manicured looks to the off-tone hue filtering the album covers to the vinyl ringwear flawlessly digitally placed on their CD cover. From the band’s pop-country friendly 2015 album, “Southernality,” to their new EP, “Bridges,” they’ve managed to prove that they can take the formula for creating mass-appeal country and offer it up track after track, similar to the what the Black Eyed Peas are to pop music or Coldplay is to rock.
Basically, an A Thousand Horses record comes off as gritless and well-produced as it is catchy and infectious, almost like a soundtrack to a Ford Truck commercial played on repeat for a dozen tracks – a cliché sound that is undeniably memorable, if only for the short term, but with all of the originality and edginess of a note found inside a fortune cookie. It’s not that it’s bad — if anything, it may just be too good.
However, where this works out much more in the band’s favor – at least in my opinion – is live. For whatever the band lacks in originality, it makes up for with roaring stage charisma and arena-ready sound. So when A Thousand Horses brought their performance to the stage at Cargo Concert Hall, it was hard to walk away from the show with any opinion other than, “This band is going to blow up.”
From their entrance onto the stage, the four primary band members – two guitars, a bass, and lead vocalist (Bill Satcher, Zach Brown, Graham DeLoach and Michael Hobby) joined by a drummer and someone trading fiddle and organ duties, each lined up before a mic at the front of the stage decked out in uniform tight black denim pants and cowboy boots, black shirts in varying states of unbuttoned, and each sporting a fair amount of jewelry to round out the star-swagger of their presentation – proceeded to throw every rock star cliché out that we’re so good as if to dare the audience not to dance! Live, those songs easily ran circles around the crowd; they sounded too good not to push your way up front and smile along to, while some of the members’ model good looks added to the overall effect.
Their influences were on display in their covers of “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones and “She Talks To Angels” by the Black Crowes – the latter performed while all sitting at the front of the stage only about 2 feet from the audience.
From all the members toasting their drinks with front row audience members upon their return for their first encore, to the platform spotlights illuminating varying guitar solos and the Spinal Tap-like pedal arrangements appearing like an arena-rock Twister Board, to the synchronized dual guitar shredding and the singer swaying over the empty microphone stand, A Thousand Horses knew the mixture for putting on an epic show, so much so that this viewer’s parting feeling above all else may have been that of feeling fortunate, that we were able to see them play an intimate venue, because everything about A Thousand Horses’ live trajectory is patterned and groomed for stages far larger.
The openers, Reno’s own Cowboy Indian, are a three-piece with a fluency for roadhouse country and comedic segues. With complementary vocals from the frontmen playing acoustic guitar (Lucas Paul) and a glittery stand up bass, it may have been the plethora of dad jokes the bass player (John von Nolde) was coming up with between songs that endeared the audience to them, and their solid offering of rambling country climaxing in said bass player’s removal of his “Boot Barn” shirt to reveal a sleeveless black T-shirt for their final song provided a great warming up for the crowd.