Having already cancelled on Nottingham last year, when he was set to appear at the Dot to Dot festival, I was pretty disappointed when Ben Howard postponed his show at Bodega in October. It was rescheduled for 6th December with a venue change to the larger Rescue Rooms, again a bit of a downer as my friends and I were looking forward to that extra slice of intimacy that Bodega would provide. However, this time his calculations were evidently correct as the show sold out, along with the rest of his tour.
Support was in the form of Rich Thomas who is normally found alongside his band Brother and Bones, but he managed to win us over with an acoustic and solo performance. His strong voice and beautiful guitar playing warmed us up nicely for Ben Howard.
Following a slight technical hitch, he took to the stage; blonde haired, tanned skinned, Howard immediately seemed at ease playing in front of a crowd. He began with ‘Diamonds’, his lyrics and appearance reminding us that he could easily be bundled into the surfer singer songwriter category, “white as the horses, they carry me away”. But Howard’s sound is more influenced by his parents’ record collection of Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and John Martyn than this Jack Johnson stereotype suggests. Comparisons with Ed Sheeran are also inevitable due to the cult flowing both young men have found developing around them over the last year or so, but Howard’s tone is earthier and his lyrics deeper. India Bourne and Chris Bond accompanied him on stage, to provide depth to songs and both impressively played a variety of instruments, sometimes simultaneously.
Together, the trio played their way through Howard’s debut album ‘Every Kingdom’ with the crowd particularly enjoying his better-known songs, ‘Old Pine’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up’. Silence gripped the audience through the more intimate tracks of ‘Everything’ and ‘Black Files’, the beautifully melancholy song he hopes will be his next single.
Howard seemed bemused by the size of the audience, their devoted shouts and ability to sing along to his lyrics, especially as it was his first time in Nottingham. The crowd were disappointed when Howard revealed he’d been asked to shorten the set because of the under 18s in the audience. After a ‘fake’ encore (Howard admitted to finding it awkward so disappeared off stage for all of a minute), he returned to the stage without his band mates and wooed the crowd with a performance of ‘Bones’. Finishing on upbeat track, ‘The Fear’, the whole crowd was left hoping he will return soon after his breath-taking Nottingham debut.
Harriet has been listening to- James Blake, covering Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’