As with many musicians, Ben Howard is a talent who seems able to change his sound with every album. From the sing-a-long hits of Every Kingdom to the brooding, intense feelings on show on I Forget Where We Were, his latest album Noonday Dream evokes expansive soundscapes which flutter in and out around his effervescent vocals. Three albums and three very different Ben Howards.
The gig tonight sees Ben focus almost entirely on his latest work, which came out a couple of months ago. Three years on from his last Eden Sessions sell-out, Ben and his band seem keen to leave the past behind them as they display a musical masterclass of weaving together disparate instruments to create a tapestry of noise which shrouds Eden.
There aren’t any huge moments of crowd participation for the first hour of the evening, but there are moments of intense beauty as the strings ride over the guitar, as the harmonies smother the drums and as the songs rise loudly to reach their crescendo. An early highlight sees long-time band member India Bourne take to the stage to offer harmonies during ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’, the first time she’s joined the band on this tour. The three-piece string section cuts across the vocals to bring the song to a close, setting the tone for the evening. Every instrument has its reason to be there and every note flows together to create something bigger than its individual parts.
It’s hard to imagine a better evening for this concert, as the sun sets gradually and basks the arena in sunlight, Ben himself seems in an upbeat and chatty mood throughout the gig. He seems to love performing in Cornwall and took delight in telling the 6,000 strong crowd how his next song was all about shooting rooks whilst sat at home – although apparently he’s now changed his ways. The song that follows, ‘The Defeat’ grabs the audiences attention with a gentle mixture of acoustic guitar an vocals before swelling up into a full band symphony complete with screaming synth and a dazzling light show. This band are a force to be reckoned with, displaying their musical might at every opportunity.
As the evening progresses we are treated to some of the popular cuts from the second album including ‘Small Things’ (prompting the first real sing-a-long from the audience), a heartfelt version of ‘Conrad’ and an intense rendition of ‘End of the Affair’.
It’s difficult to say that everyone walked away happy after tonight, for those fans who were loudly humming the refrain from ‘The Wolves’ between every song would likely have left slightly disappointed. But everyone there who expected to see the latest incarnation of Ben Howard and his band would surely have been taken on a rather wonderful sonic journey between the biomes.
A beautiful night, and one that will surely take a long time be forgotten.
Ben Howard played:
: Jacob Woolcock
: Sapphire Clarey & Jacob Woolcock