The sold out show in Housing Works Bookstore Café had promised to be an intimate, acoustic affair from Tired Pony, but the event was as surprising as the band itself. The collective performs live rarely, and it can’t be easy gathering together the likes of busy musicians like Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows), Richard Colburn (Belle and Sebastian), Troy Stewart (The Windsor Player), Iain Archer, and Jacknife Lee. Only Archer was absent from the Housing Works stage, but there were a couple of special guests to fill in the gaps and the precious remaining space on the stage.
A bookstore was the perfect place to see this band perform as their two records—2010’s The Place We Ran From and new release The Ghost of the Mountain—follow the rather literary path of a couple’s romantic struggles after an unnamed crime. The setlist was almost evenly divided between the primarily acoustic style of the first album and the more adventurous approach of the latter. Though the lyrics are often dark, the performance was filled with smiles and joy. This is clearly a group of men who love having the chance to experiment together and share the results with willing ears, and the casual approach made for one hell of a fun show. Aside from a small bit of (admittedly entertaining) banter, all Tired Pony had to bring was their songs. That was more than enough.
Brooklyn-based chanteuse Rosi Golan was a welcome addition on several tracks, particularly “Get on the Road” and the latest single “All Things All at Once.” While Zooey Deschanel performed on the album version of “Point Me at Lost Islands,” those quirky shoes were filled live by none other than Mike Mills, who brought a delightful energy as he stood next to his former R.E.M. bandmate Buck (and frequent collaborator McCaughey). The band could have brought out another guest to stand in for Editors’ Tom Smith on “The Good Book,” but Lightbody instead performed the song solo. To have such a desolate song performed with no accompaniment made the lyrics all the more vulnerable, creating one of the key points of the night.
The new songs are possibly even more stunning live than they are on the album, from the choral touches and demanding upper range of “Blood” to the plaintive lyrics and delicate guitar of “Wreckage and Bone.” By the time the band ended with gorgeous “The Ghost of the Mountain,” more than an hour had passed, Lightbody had broken a string, and the crowd went buzzing out into the late night. The performance felt rarefied, spontaneous, and pure, like reaching the end of a brilliant book knowing that a sequel could be on its way.