Ben Howard is an artist who is unforgivably talented, to see the man himself, perform live is not something to take for granted. After releasing his much anticipated album, this year ‘I Forget Where We Were’ it was faultless timing, for him to bring his creation to life, and share it with the thousands of silhouettes, which gathered in O2 Brixton Academy, 11th December.
The show was set to start at 9 o’clock, but his absence became apparent shortly after. The hunger for music began to build up. Then suddenly, Ben and his band filled the stage. The moment he picked up his guitar any grudges for his delay were lost. Fans roared with excitement and relief, as ‘Small Things’ gently began.
‘Small Things’ was honestly a premature highlight. It would of felt natural to place the song later into the set list. Although it’s charming, slow and steady intro captured everybody’s devout attention. The rhythm picks up and his vocals strain, repeating the question “has the world gone mad, or is it me?” The walls felt like they were closing in, and the gig began to feel heavy and intense. The sudden intimacy sprung from the 27-year-old artist, exposing emotions of potential harsh realities of his past. It was a rare and special moment he had embraced.
The band was made up of talented musicians, including a member playing a cello, which is an unusual, but relevant sight for a gig in 2014. The instruments teased many of the songs with pro-longed melodies, which dazzled and dizzied the audience. Ben and the band create something so powerful on stage, but he gracefully takes the lead, with his husky voice dominating.
‘I Forget Where We Were’ proved itself to be the strongest contender of the night, from the latest album. The song obtained the most confident sing-alongs, and stunning praise from the fans. Band member India dances freely to the loose melody, and those in the crowd swayed in sync to the song. ‘Oats In The Water’ from the Burgh Island EP, received just as much applause. Maybe it was for the playful spin on the live version, which the audience was left amazed by.
The singer-songwriter appears shy from the outside. He does not have a whole lot to say, although Ben did crack a couple of jokes, alongside his infectious nervous laughter. His laid back persona reflects on his image. A casual tee and baggy jeans gives a sense of modesty, as if he doesn’t realise how much he has become, and giving hope he will remain grounded.
The audience craved the Ben Howard songs from his last album, the ones which were overplayed on the radio, and considered his “hit” songs. The desperation for him to give into playing the very familiar, ‘The Wolves’ became obvious as the audience howled the song. It felt as if fans didn’t appreciate the first impressions of the new album, and would rather step away from the new material. Admiration goes out to Mr Howard, as he rebelled against what was wanted, and expected. Instead he took a refreshing approach and ended on a recent single, ‘End Of the Affair.’
‘End Of The Affair’ which began calmly with the sweet sounding guitar rhythm supported by the soothing vocals. This pattern went on for the majority of the single, but then took a sudden dark turn. This turn was followed by the instruments gaining speed, and becoming more aggressive. Ben began to shout the lyrics into his guitar. This was a chilling and unique act. His emotions become overwhelming and flooded the stage. It was so surreal how lost in the moment Ben was, and it seemed he forgot he was in a room full of people.
The show was an entire change compared to one of his older tours. Fans have witnessed the artist grow, and experiment, whilst finding himself. Everything about Ben Howard’s new sound falls into place, and works. Although, it will be interesting where he will take his work next. Fans will be intrigued to see if he keeps up this new darker image, or whether he revisits his old summery tracks.
[footage I recorded from the show]