“The phenomenon that is Ben Howard” is a pretty common headline we’ve been hearing and seeing over the last few months, and with that in mind I’m rather unsure of where to start. I luckily happened upon a ticket to the gig a few weeks back and have been counting the days until last night. With a line up that included Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli (aka: Daughter), it was certainly a night not to be missed. Following the release of his debut album “Every Kingdom”, Howard set out on his first headline at the beginning of this year stopping everywhere from Glasgow, to Bristol and finally in London; at the renowned Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
It’s important I don’t miss out the wonderful and very friendly Daughter who has been supporting throughout this tour. Coming on stage to an intrigued round of applause from the audience, Elena began with “Landfill”, a beautiful drum-filled track off her EP “His Young Heart”. Being such a petite and rather reserved person on such a huge stage with an equally huge audience, she never failed to astonish me with her powerful and resonant vocals. Songs such as “Candles” and “Youth” were more upbeat and contrasted well with the slower numbers, and the audience took particularly well to her new closing song titled “Tomorrow”. Elena and Igor combine uniquely raw vocals with beautiful melodies in almost every song of their two EP’s, and they were beyond perfect in preparing the crowd of what was to come.
Finishing on a high from the support, the audience, ever growing in noise and numbers, waited in anticipation for what they’ed all gathered to see. When Howard finally made a sheepish appearance on stage, he was greeted with an eruption from the crowd. What strikes me most about Howard’s performance was his modesty. Starting with “I’m quite nervous, this venue has always been a childhood dream of mine”, triggered an even bigger cheer. His set included two new songs, as well as all ten tracks from the album. “The Wolves” seemed to be a crowd favourite, and it seemed the audience were doing more of the singing than the band were. Howard managed to effectively mix his slow yet extremely compelling songs with some of the more lively ones, for example his solo rendition of “Promise” displayed his unbelievable talent, especially on guitar, like nothing else throughout the night. Ending on “The Fear”, it seemed there was every kind of emotion in the building, from people dancing and shouting to those sobbing (including Ben’s Granny), and the energy was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
These headlines are true to their word, and this “phenomenon” is a true gem, one that makes you positively proud to be British. If any of you EVER get an opportunity to see this guy live, you’d be a fool to miss it: a spectacular night.
Words: Ellie Rumbold