Roar

Ben Howard Live Review

In Music on October 15, 2011 at 11:02 am

The beach as close as the high rise is from me now. Nostalgia is a terrific beast. It grabs the heart and puts a warm robe around the shoulders, then makes you lust after its misty wake. But this is the new – yet the same – Ben Howard, improved and impressive.

Wolves; Like a run through a forest, energised by the unknown and lack of belonging, screaming from the bottom of your heart and lungs. You come out by the sea. Love, love, love.

My own bleating about Cornwall dwelling days aside, Devonshire Ben’s debut album can only be construed as original, confident and beautifully written. Delicate guitar notes, sit with husky vocals, powering out as if having spent the last three years paddling out into the big waves. Storming. Joni Mitchell, John Martyn and Nick Drake drink hot chocolate and Irish whiskeys on the cliff side. Now polished to the point he’s confidently riding the giant deep blue liquid mountains, India Bourne and Chris Bond, his band members, lolling and shooting up the waves there with him. Singing, jamming, tapping, celebrating and building the inspirational, individually styled acoustic folk.

Though of course, he and the band are not alone, tonight (and indeed, for all shows) the venue was packed. Completely sold out. Everyone hankering to shift forward, but lost in every song played. To the point they’d forget they were on a static boat in the city, with a million other people; misty eyes and slow sways. Keep Your Head Up, The Fear and Promise are true gems, to ferry hearts. This intimate show by the wide open sea feel, was in many ways, thanks to a relaxed and involved performance. Only snapped out slightly, when those million people were howling to Wolves and singing out; ‘Love, Love, Love’ -as seen on his merchandise by the door. Casual and yet immense.

At one point Ben put his hand up to his brow to look out to the audience; ‘The last few weeks, have just been amazing, we can’t believe it. The album’s at number seven in the album charts.’ Lots of clapping, wooping, whistling and adoration.

As well as clearly loving what he’s doing, Ben isn’t afraid of ‘appearing’ in a certain way, or having any sort of emotion upon him. He builds, and gains understanding, from using using natural world imagery to describe love and the world. Whether that’s through the beloved sea, forests or wild wolves. The guitar, bass, drums and cello make for a raw and embracing accompaniment. Particularly when a song builds up into a crashing, howling climax, such as Black Flies. Through his voice, instruments, intelligent writing and delivery, he manages to make these somewhat profound feelings, genuine, refreshing and all encompassing.

Excellent, well done Ben & Co.

I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.

William Wordsworth

And living in the deep country of England, nature governed everything. The winds, the seas; whether the day was for walking, surfing or to be sat by the fire. Travel was an honour and a strong desire, a want to see, meet and experience. In some very important ways, that thinking is right. The country bubble with its absence of self conscious yearnings, is a special world to inhabit and appreciate. As the city, gives so much, it is obvious that the bubble has reversed and the true escape lies in the seas, hills and mountains of nature.

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