EDITORS NOTE: As we grow, so too do the opportunities I get to put together great talent. So this review is written from the perspectives of super solid contributor/writer Elizabeth Ramirez and amazing photojournalist Katie Henry. Their Voltron union which here combines video by Elizabeth and breath taking shots by Katie, is a fantastic way to dig deep into the musical artist that is Ben Howard. Their beautiful collaboration:
If you know of Ben Howard and his music, you know that his show is not one where you’ll be showing off your best/worst dance moves in a tiny confined space, among your new best friends for the night. No. This is a show where you move to the sexy percussion of India Bourne and the plucking perfections of Ben Howard and the men that surround him, who make these incredible songs rattle your soul. This is a man who approaches the stage passively, sits quietly and finger plucks the hell out of his guitar with complete focus and almost no regard to the sold out crowd that stood before him. This is not a sign of a man who doesn’t appreciate his success, this is someone who has so beautifully mastered his craft he doesn’t need to play to the crowd.
“I Forgot Where We Were”
The chill of January suffocated me as I made my way to Ben Howard’s sold out show at the Hammerstein Ballroom this last Friday. The British singer-songwriter was well worth it as his wonderfully imaginative performance melted the bleak winter away. As I watched him that night, it was apparent that Ben values his music as an artistic process, a work of beauty that he generously shares with the world. His ability to delicately blend his velvet and sometimes vulnerable voice with stormy lyrics and dreamlike harmonies easily mesmerizes his fans.
Backlight yet swallowed in darkness, Ben began the set with “Small Things.” The lyrics question the state of the world, asking if “the world has gone mad, or is it just me?, all these small things they gather round me, gather round me, is it all so bad?, I can’t see.” Ben softly sang these introspective and philosophical words while the dark stage unfolded into static, naked light. A defining talent of Ben is his intelligent ability to build up his songs, piece by piece, until the soothing and mildly rhythmic sounds become turbulent, passionate, and entrancing. As Ben continued “Small Things” he did just that. Just as the song evolved so did the lighting, morphing from a locked and passive mood to one that was free and wild. An artistic choice that perfectly complimented the song. It was an experience that captured your attention.
When Ben performed his sophomore album title track “I Forgot Were We Were,” I listened with a heavy yet warm heart. It is the kind of song that pulls emotion out of you. For me, it allows an indulging of loneliness and sorrow yet somehow the beauty of it empowers my soul. I just love it and can listen to it on repeat when the time calls for it. During this song, Ben played his guitar in a somewhat percussive style by holding the frets from the top of the neck rather then under with complete ease. When recently asked by David Letterman why he played in that manner, he simply stated that his thumb was too small. A humbling answer that amplifies his genuine character I think. Ben capped off the night with the tune “The Fear,” which reignited a title wave of energy from the crowd who intensely sang along.
Photographer | Katie Henry
Video | Elizabeth Ramirez