I’ve been looking forward to tonight and it appears that I’m not the only one, as The Civic in Wolverhampton was full tonight for Ben Howard’s sell out show. By the time I arrived the room was already packed out with people pretty much stuffed into every corner.
The evening starts with the lights dimmed to almost complete darkness as Mr. Howard makes his way onto the stage to huge applause and cheers from audience. With the room still in darkness, but with a little added blue lighting just to silhouette the band onstage with him, Howard starts the night with “End of the Affair”. The whole room just watched and listened with such concentration to what was to be the first of many songs from his darker sounding second album. After around five minutes we were still in the moody blue darkness before what is possibly one of the best lighting setups I’ve seen in a venue this size. It blitzed the whole room up as the tempo of the opening song picked up.
I, along with everyone else in the room was captivated from the off by the completely effortless performance that Howard was delivering. At the end of every song, the room would erupt into cheering and applause which was quickly followed by silence, as the transfixed crowd soaked up whatever was to follow.
As the opening notes to “Conrad” were played, the almost Balearic sound, coupled with his smooth voice, sent the room a bit nuts, for what is in my opinion, one of the best tracks from the new album “I Forget Where We Were”.
Ben and his band clearly look like they are having fun by this point and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is one of the friendliest and most chilled out crowds I’ve come across, with everyone nodding along and occasionally all swaying along with each other.
We are quite a way into the evening when “Black Flies” is played, and with only new material being played up until this point tonight, the audience breaks into sing-along and with this being followed by “The Fear” which results in the crowd becoming a sea of clapping hands, everyone seems pleased to hear a couple of earlier songs.
Throughout the night there were heaps of guitar changes, with Howard swapping from acoustic to electric and back again. The band seemed to play a variety of instruments too, which meant that awesome sound aside, they were also fun to watch, with Ben at one point quite literally singing into the body of his acoustic guitar and somehow making it sound great. I was also impressed by the lighting and screen set-up on stage. I particularly liked the cameras that were rigged up and flicked between the band members as they were playing, and the spot light that fired beams of light high up onto the back wall of The Civic.
For the encore, Ben gave us two songs. First up was “Oats in the Water”. This in itself acted as a showcase of just how talented at his chosen craft he is ,with its deep dark guitar riffs and raw sound of both his lyrics and voice. The final song of the night was “Gracious” which seemed just right to wind down send us all home on.
Ben Howard put on a truly stunning performance tonight and I can’t imagine that anyone will have left being disappointed by what they had heard. I can however see that some may be a little disappointed with what they may not have heard, with the noticeable absence of “The Wolves”,”Only Love” or “Keep Your Head Up”. I think it was made clear that tonight was all about going forward with the new darker, more intense sound.
For me though, it was a mesmerising and captivating performance and I can’t see the chance of being able to catch him at smaller venues like this being around for much longer, so If I were you then I’d grab a ticket for one of the remaining dates if you can.
Because quite simply Mr Howard, you smashed it…
End Of The Affair
Rivers In Your Mouth
I Forget Where We Were
She Treats Me Well
All Is Now Harmed
Oats In The Water
Review: John Dent
Photographs: Steve Gerrard