It took me a little while to decide that I liked Ben Howard. For several months he was an artist I listened to in passing, normally when wandering past my housemates bedroom as she reminded me often how incredible he was. I never actually sat down and took notice until my girlfriend, who could definitely be described as a super-fan, made me listen to his album from start to finish most lazy Sunday mornings. By the time I made my mind up his next Brighton gig had already sold out and I kicked myself (and she kicked me too) for not getting tickets. My luck changed however, when a friend of mine who was going travelling offered up a pair of spare tickets on Facebook and I jumped at the chance knowing that snapping them up would definitely win me some happy points.
When I found out the support act was going to be none other than London based three piece, Daughter, I decided we’d struck gold. I’d had ‘Youth’ and ‘Landfill’ on rotation on a playlist at work for some time now so I was looking forward to hearing more from them live. Daughter took to the stage with a grace and semi-awkwardness which suited their music perfectly and reminded me of early performances by The XX. Singer Elena Tonra was mesmorising as she shyly introduced the band and smiled nervously before silencing the front of the crowd with her incredible vocal. The venue was quite noisy, with alot of the crowd, clearly only there to see the headline act chatting throughout their set, but this didn’t phase the band and they captured the attention of those polite enough to listen, myself included, from the start of their set to the final note of their last song. I immediately purchased both EPs from iTunes on my return home and I urge you to do the same. You can do so HERE.
Daughter – Love
Ben Howard took the stage amongst a cloud of smoke, which incidentally set off the fire alarm during his first song, not that anyone noticed until he informed the crowd on the mic after introducing himself as he drew them in immediately with his faultless vocal and trademark unique way of plucking at this guitar on his lap.
What impressed me most about his hour and half long set was his interaction with his band, especially cellist / bassist / percussionist India Bourne whose stage presence was simply stunning. When watching soloists live previously, their backing band have always seemed exactly that, anonymous and there to support the named artist. This was not the case tonight, Ben threw conversational nods to his band throughout the set and their involvement was anything but anonymous. Tonight it felt as though we we invited to watch a band who had been working together for years, led by a modest, but incredibly talented frontman. Their banter was entertaining to watch also, as Ben described an ex girlfriend, of which 70% of the album is about and concluded that he was the winner after hearing that the record had gone gold. This was met by a disapproving look from across the stage from India, who we were told was one of the girls best friends.
Ben’s banter with the audience was also constant, at one point he spoke of how unsure he was when he heard that his single had made the Radio One A-List, but after deciding that most of his audience were seemingly over Ed Sheeran’s age, this could only be a positive.
Another pleasant surprise for me was the varied style and tempo of the set. I think I expected quite a chilled out acoustic vibe and although this expectation was indeed satisfied with some of his relaxed tracks such as ‘Black Flies’, ‘Everything’ and ‘Old Pine’ he also got the crowd dancing, clapping and singing along throughout the more up-tempo songs, noticebly with ‘Only Love’, ‘Keep your head up’ and my personal favourite, ‘The Wolves’.
In conclusion, Ben and his band blew me away, his vocal was even more incredible and unique live than what is captured in his recordings and the energy and presence was beating down on the crowd until the encore came to an end. Its safe to say that my super-fan girlfriend, now has most played playlist competition in the form of me.
Buy Ben’s album / singles on iTunes now by following this LINK and if you fancy something a little different, check out the Scott Nixon remix of ‘Black Flies’ below.
Ben Howard – Black Flies (NiXON Remix)