Ben Howard was welcomedback to the West Country by a sold out Bristol O2 Academy boasting a remarkably young crowd for a cold school night. Supporting act ‘Daughter’ warmed up the sell out crowd with their soothing yet powerful vocals. The second guitarist mainly focuses on making noises with his instrument rather than actually playing it, which works sometimes but on some songs drowned out what makes the band so special, the lovely haunting vocals of the modest Elena Tonra.

 

After Daughter finish, there is an agonizingly long and hot wait for Ben Howard as the mainly youthful crowd surge to the front creating a teenage sauna of Topman clothes and smartphones at the ready. When he does appear the excitement in the crowd is subdued as he announces he’ll be starting with some slower numbers, but they are still met with rapturous applause. The pace picks up with ‘Old Pine’ and the massively motivational ‘Keep Your Head Up’. The crowd responds well, keeping their feet moving and hands in the air. When he plays an extended version of ‘The Wolves’ the crowd are sent into a frenzy by what makes Ben Howard so great. There is no denying the beauty of hislyrics and the way he sings them. But what separates him from other singer songwriters at present are the relentlessly passionate folk breakdowns at the end of most of his songs that on this night sent the crowd old and (but mostly) young into a festival like frenzy. Heslows down for the ominous ‘Black Flies’ which includes a cameo from Daughter’s lead singer Elena Tonra. She shyly but beautifully fits into the song so well, now I understand why all the kids have theirphones out. Though his interaction between songs is minimal, the mention of the word ‘Paignton’ sends half of the crowd wild. Bemused by this, Ben asks the members of the audience from Devon to reveal themselves. This receives the loudest cheers of the night as it appears the majority of the crowd have made the short journey up from Devon to see their hometown hero. This crowd are in full singing and dancing swing. The best song of the night was ‘Only Love’, there were many couples in the room that night and you could feel that Ben’s words meant a lot to each pair, as if it were only the two of them in the room. He finishes with The Fear, including an aforementioned folk breakdown. A fitting end to a marvellous evening, there is much more to come from Ben Howard in 2012. He returns to Bristol in October, to Colston Hall, just down the road from the Academy, which one feels may be a better venue for his more mature audience

 

Nicholas Latham