Review: Ben Howard
Venue: Manchester Apollo, Manchester
Date: 12th November 2012
Originally featured in The Mancunion:
Fresh from his recent appearance at the Mercury Music Prize ceremony, a sold out Manchester Apollo opened its doors and welcomed Mr. Ben Howard and his kingdom of fans, in what proved to be a real indication of how far the singer-songwriter has come in just under 12 months. After what he describes as ‘one of the best shows of the last tour’ at the Manchester Ritz in February this year, his admission of nerves this time round, was no surprise as there was inevitably a strong sense of expectation to see whether a once rising star in the music industry, had really become an established artist in the space of 12 months.
Taking to the dark Apollo stage in equally dark clothing and equipment, Ben Howard and his crew were greeted by thunderous applause and a deafening choir of high pitched screaming. So far so good one could say. His dark silhouette cast a lonely figure as anticipation built in and around the gloomy Apollo, but then without introduction, Howard stormed into the opening three songs, displaying the prowess of an artist way ahead of the game, playing like an experienced veteran who failed to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the crowd.
Then it wasn’t before long until he totally set the place alight, taking centre stage on a now sun-kissed stage, standing in-front of the beaming sun which has become ever so synonymous with his successful debut album ‘Every Kingdom’. His unique combination of both folk and rock has aided his success and gained him the wide fan base which could certainly be seen, a crowd mixing a much younger hipster following with an evidently older and appreciative generation of music fan. And in a world where success as a solo artist is measured against the likes of Justin Bieber, Ben Howard is a much needed breath of fresh air in a very isolated industry.
Although new material was met with open arms by the crowd, his ability to repeatedly interchange between much faster, heavier material to much slower meaningful tracks truly showcased that he can do much more than win the hearts of teenage girls with a series of love songs. Popular tracks ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Under The Same Sun’, helped start to get heads nodding and feet tapping around the room whilst fans favourites ‘Only Love’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up’proved to reaffirm any doubt that Ben Howard has built on and created a loyal kingdom of fans, stood mesmerised by his every lyric throughout the duration of the performance. The highlight and biggest cheer of the night however must have been for ‘The Wolves’, as his 80 minute set was met with a standing ovation from the 3000 sell out crowd. All in all, a truly magnificent performance by an artist that speaks so avidly about Manchester and its musical heritage. With further performances like that, he will soon be up there with the greats he admires so much.