Live Review | Ben Howard at the Paradise
by Courtney Leigh Allen, is originally from Seattle but now writes, lives and paints in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.
British surfer-folk artist Ben Howard stopped by the Paradise Saturday night, playing to a sold out crowd. From the first song he played, Ben had the crowd captivated. And I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever seen one guy, with one debut album, have the entire audience singing along, loudly, to almost every song he played. Actually, it’s the perfect evidence of Ben Howard’s charm. People love him for both his beautiful folk songs and for his humble and adorable British demeanor.
Ben, his drummer and his cellist/bassist opened with the slow and quiet Everything, which features a bit of Ben’s unorthodox guitar playing. Ben played roughly half the bar chords with his right hand coming over the top of the neck of the guitar. Later on during his encore, Ben played Depth Over Distance with his guitar flat on his lap, beating and tapping on the body of the guitar during the chorus.
A few times through the night, Ben swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one, which made the mood and atmosphere of the venue drop and darken. All of his songs on the acoustic guitar have an upbeat, stomp-along vibe. But his electric tunes are much darker. The perfect example, would be the cover of Call Me Maybe that Ben did for a BBC Radio 1 Live Session. For a sugary summer track, Ben manages to make it sound moody and dark and so completely different than the original. The crowd at the Paradise was clearly familiar with the cover, as it only took two songs before they started yelling out for Ben to play it. But he was clearly there to play his tunes, leaving fans of Call Me Maybe to relive it online.
The audience sang along, from the first line to the last, of almost all of the songs. But seriously, almost every song from Only Love, Keep Your Head Up and Old Pine to The Wolves, The Fear, Diamonds and Blackflies. I swear the sound guys had to turn up Ben’s mic to get it to carry out over the audience. So many of the songs also turned into loud, foot-stomping tunes. But not your standard Mumford and Sons or Lumineers clap-and-stomp tracks, these are more suited to large boisterous but folky sing-alongs around a camp fire after a long day at the beach.
Bottom line, if you haven’t listened to this album yet, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a great album (in fact, it’s one of the 12 finalists for the Mercury Prize this year) that many have glommed onto, as evidenced by the masses of Ben Howard fans who turned out Saturday night to catch him live.
He continues his North American tour through August 12th, where he’ll be at the Austin City Limits Festival. Check out the rest of his dates here.