Ben Howard played to a completely engaged crowd at the Neptune Theatre on October 2, 2012. Howard played favorites from his debut album, Every Kingdom, to ovation after ovation from an appreciative Tuesday night Seattle crowd. Howard’s haunting vocals and soothing-yet-energetic finger-picking style provided the crowd a musical experience that left us all hoping for more very soon.
Gill Landry, of Old Crow Medicine Show fame, kicked off the evening followed by Howard’s fellow Brit, Marcus Foster, who will be a force to be reckoned with in what seems to be another wave of British invaders. Foster brought plenty of energy and was well-received by the crowd with energy. His vocal presence combined with his energy and general charisma makes him an artist to watch in the future.
Howard came on to the stage with his band in darkness, fog, and spotlights. The fans in this building adored him. Every word out of Howard’s mouth resulted in a reaction of some kind; aided, of course, by his British accent. Each song was met with anticipation of what the coming track was, followed by cheers upon realization. Artists like Howard who create distinct songs tend to draw this sort of attention from fans, considering that each unique track is an experience on its own.
Howard is a healthy mix of the rustic vocals of Ray LaMontagne, the full band utilization of Bon Iver, and the songwriting influence of old favorites like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Howard’s simple lyrics and songwriting style make for perfect mood music, especially for a crowd prepared to be whisked away during a mid-week show. His songs ebb and flow in a way that you begin to drift away during a mellow, introspective portion before it builds and you realize you are surrounded by sound and emotion.
Being a new Ben Howard fan, I knew not what to expect of his live performance or the reception awaiting him this evening in Seattle. The crowd arrived early, knew all of the songs, and gave Howard such a warm reception that he repaid with a new song during his encore. Howard’s precision on guitar was complimented well by his multi-talented accompaniment, creating an environment on stage that felt like a real spectacle. As a drummer, I rarely attend these sort of concerts expecting to be impressed with percussion, but the compliment offered by Howard’s drummer certainly fit and set the mood well.
Howard’s live performance will remain in my memory for quite a while. Every Kingdom is an ideal late-night album to share with a friend over a glass of wine, but the live performance at the Neptune struck in a way that adds depth to the energy I’ll associate with Howard’s album. Like every single person who attended this show, we will anxiously await the next release and next chance to experience Howard again.