Saturday night Ben Howard took the stage for a sold out Union Transfer show. Fans arrived early, some having waited in line since Noon.  The show had been sold out since October after Ben’s incredible new album, I Forget Where We Were, dropped.  The growing debate amongst the anxious crowd was if they’d hear more new or old tunes.  For many, this was the first time they were seeing Ben Howard live, unaware of the magic they were about to witness. 

It’s no doubt that Ben Howard has been growing in popularity since the release of Every Kingdom.  Gaining new fans with his mellow and musically sophisticated tunes.  We found some of these gems in the set on Saturday, but not as many as everyone was hoping for.  Judging from the screams in the crowd, they were looking forward to those songs they’ve grown to love, like “Keep Your Head Up” and “The Wolves”.  None of these were found.  Instead we got other tunes from EK like “The Fear” and “Black Flies”.  The focus of this tour is obviously I Forget Where We Were.  Ben and the gang started off playing the new songs to flawless perfection.  To everyone’s surprise, they started off the set with one of the longer tracks from IFWWW, “Conrad”.

Photo by Lindsey Borgman

Photo by Lindsey Borgman

The last two times I’ve seen Ben Howard he’s played as a trio.  Now offering a more rounded out sound, we find Ben playing with a six piece.  Ben knew how to give each song the attention to detail that it deserved, in striking paralleled structure to the album.  They started off the set in electric mode, then Ben switched to his acoustic for the majority of the set, later breaking down to the classic trio for “Every Kingdom,” then finishing off the set with the full band.  In Ben’s signature way, he’s seated low, center stage with his guitar.  Watching Ben perform brings new light to the way music can be performed.  Just watch any video of him playing guitar and you’ll know what I mean.

I don’t think I can end this review without mentioning the crowd.  Ben caused a bit of controversy back in December at a show with some select words.  I was surprised he didn’t do the same Saturday.  For anyone who has seen Ben before, he’s a man of few words.  Showcasing his music more than himself.  However, when faced with the rude crowds yelling demands, I can’t help but think of the frustrations that he’s faced with.  For example, the folks standing next to me who had come up from Maryland.  A group of 20-somethings, drunk as hell, but extremely excited for the show.  They bought their tickets off StubHub (enough said), clearly pre-gamed before the show, and continued to drink the night away.  As time went on they continued to talk over the band, yell demands for the songs they wanted to hear, loudly sing what they thought were the words to the songs, etc.  Ben thankfully ignored the rude catcalls and continued as usual.  It continually baffles me that folks will pay good money for concerts and not show basic respect for the artist they came to see.  All that said, I’ll leave this with a fitting quote a friend of mine shared:  “The problem with music is that anyone can listen to it.”

Setlist:

Conrad

I Forget Where We Were

Rivers In My Mouth

In Dreams

Small Things

Time is Dancing

End of the Affair

She Treats Me Well

Every Kingdom

Black Flies

All Is Now Harmed

Encore:

Oats in the Water

The Fear