It’s Wednesday evening, and instead of settling down for GBBO **sobs** we’re lucky enough to find ourselves at yet another night of this month’s iTunes festival at the Iconic and unsurprisingly packed out (tickets weren’t too expensive) London Roundhouse.
Instead of Mary Berry, it is Ben Howard who is on tonight’s menu. Three years after debut album ‘Every Kingdom’ and just some twenty four hours after airing the long awaited follow up ‘I Forget Where We Were’ live on radio one. The 27 year old singer-songwriter now takes to the Roundhouse stage…
After the now proverbial ten second countdown at the festival, Howard takes to the band alongside his four-piece band opening with a track from the new LP ‘In Dreams’, with acute finger-picking on the acoustic guitar, and the melancholy in his voice it is recognisable Howard.
Sitting on a stall in the middle of the stage, the casual Howard doesn’t look fazed by at all and is totally encompassed in his art as he leads into the next two tracks of the night, ‘Time Is Dancing’ and ‘Evergreen’. When discussing new tracks recently, he talked about being influenced heavily by the National and Talk Talk in his writing, which is clear in both of them.
But what is striking to Howard’s new material is how it embodies all of the harmonic tones and exquisite harmonies that are embodied in vast amounts of ‘Every Kingdom’ and we can’t help be drawn into the build-up of each track, with spacey, electronic flourishes it is hard not be totally encapsulated by the talent on display.
The above is further illustrated when ‘Conrad’ and album titled ‘I Forget Where We Were’ are played next. The audience, largely inanimate so far, respond well and there is a lot more movement and appreciation in the familiarity of the two songs.
At this stage we must mention India Bourne, as an ever present member of the band; it is clear why Howard credits her with so much of the success that they have shared. As she seamlessly, moves from keyboard, to base, to cello you cannot help but fully-admire her talent.
There is finally some crowd interaction. He explains how his first ever gig that he played in London was during the iTunes festival, across the road at a small pub called the ‘Enterprise’. He goes on to say how grateful he is to have the opportunity of now playing a stage, where he once looked in. Although, Howard himself adds “shit story”, it highlights a humble journey, one that has been accompanied by hard-work and sculpted an undeniable talent.
After this he leads into ‘End of the affair’ the debut track from the new album, this is played beautifully and is trademark Howard. Listen to the song in full below…
The end of ‘All is now harmed’ prompts the band to leave the stage to generous applause, and a genuine excitement for the encore. Yet, we find ourselves eagerly waiting and… nothing. No hint of any ‘Every Kingdom’ in sight, no hint, of well… anything. In brief moments of addressing the crowd earlier, Howard enquired how the ticket system works for the festival “guess you’re just out for whatever, you can get”. When really, it is abundantly clear that everyone was out for some familiarity… It is clear he is trying to push in a new direction and focus on the future and not the past, but as refreshing as this is, it is disappointing.
In regards to his performance for radio one on Tuesday night; Zane Lowe tweeted “Honestly. This is the most special Maida Vale session I’ve ever been to @benhowardmusic”. Now, we’re not calling Zane a liar, and Ben Howard’s talent in song writing, guitar riffs, and beautiful songs is clear, but tonight he failed to overwhelm or engage a crowd that was crying out for an old favorite.
‘I Forget Where We Were’ is released next month, and on tonight’s evidence it will be a belter, however, fickle as it sounds we just wish we could have heard a bit of ‘Keep Your Head Up’ or ‘Only Love’ a sentiment that is clearly echoed by those in the crowd who seemed slightly bewildered at what appeared a short set (despite being an hour long).