Although fall has already made it’s presence in New England, Ben Howard’s surf-folk summery acoustic songs, mostly coming off his first album Every Kingdom, are still well alive. The British singer-songwriter has been touring non-stop, which brought him back to Boston, MA this past Friday, September 22nd at the Paradise Rock Club.
Accompanied on stage by India Bourne and the Bond brothers, Howard opened with "Everything", which set a dark, intimate atmosphere that echoed with sheer power and emotion. Howard’s enthusiasm and love of playing live transmitted, as was the case for the other band members, by shared smiles and laughter throughout the night. This, along with constantly interacting with the crowd, was a true testament to how he and the rest of the band feed off an audience.
The "Call Me Maybe" cover requests were shouted in a few areas of the sold out audience early on, but were quickly shot down. They did garner a few chuckles from Howard and crew though, and the rise out of the crowd made it absolutely clear they were here to see Howard’s original songs. "Only Love" and "Diamonds" fit this crowd much better than any Top 40 radio hit. A more serious moment came when the unreleased track "Burgh Island" was played. It would be an understatement to say the crowd was listening intently to the new track but this piece quickly gained approval by a loud applause at the end. Most in attendance knew what songs to expect since Howard has only played a handful of songs outside of Every Kingdom, so this was a pleasant gift.
Ben Howard playing "Only Love" live at Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA on September 22nd, 2012:
As with every expectation, there comes some twists in live performances and Howard has combatted against unexpected mishaps quite well – such as the feedback in the middle of the first verse in "Black Flies". Instead of fighting against the incessant ear-piercing shriek, the crowd took over the vocals of that verse until Howard readjusted his mic, ousted the feedback, and continued where the crowd left off. It’s apparent Howard has played enough gigs to not become flustered by these hiccups – which was also proven that night when intoxicated females needed to continuously express their love to him by screaming and slurring their words at the most inopportune times. How does he do it? By jokingly responding, "I have absolutely no idea what you just said." Laughter ensued and Howard began fingerpicking the next song with a grin stretching across his face.
Closing out the set with a two-song encore of "Depth Over Distance" and "The Fear", Howard left the crowd fiending for more until the house lights turned on signaling the end. Luckily for them, a highly anticipated EP may be out before the end of the year to hold them over until the next visit.
If you want real music, real energy, and real emotion without the glitz and glamour that has so easily become the norm in the music scene today, it’s time to catch Ben Howard’s next gig. After dominating the U.K. charts and quickly climbing up in the U.S. this past year, Ben Howard’s time at the top may start to become a bit clearer.