Menu ▲

Ben Howard: Fri, April 5 @ The Hi-Fi, Brisbane

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on April 16, 2013

After missing Ben Howard at Splendour in the Grass 2012, due to an unfortunate clash with Youth Lagoon, I was going to make sure that I didn’t miss the Devon-based acoustic maestro again. We unfortunately arrived a little too late for opening act Willy Mason, but heard he was a real treat.

When Ben Howard finally came on, he had the luxury of playing to one of the most devoted and packed crowds I’ve ever seen at a Brisbane gig. The audience knew every single lyric to his tunes (excluding the new ones, bar a few devoted/stalkerish fans), and were not afraid to belt them out in unison. As I admired the stage setup, I noticed the big cello to the right of stage and I couldn’t help wondering whether Ben would treat us to his amazing cover of “Call Me Maybe”. He has said that he will never play it again, and he stayed true to that on the night.

He started off with the classic “Everything”, which I guess would be the closest thing to a title track, and the lyrics featuring Every Kingdom certainly helped him settle into the gig. After jetting in and around and over the fretboard (quite literally), he proceeded into “Black Flies” which was again greeted with unanimous applause. He dedicated “Diamonds” to his Mum, which I nearly thought was too much. I mean, here’s a guy playing to a ratio of probably 7:3 girls to guys, and he has the audacity to drop that he also loves his Mum. Cheers, Ben, way to leave some for the rest of us… excuse me while I head to Birdies to pick up some wounded seagulls.

As much as I do love my Mum, it’s definitely more in the nerdy ‘oh you still hang out with your mum sort of way’, rather than the ‘oh you’ve just released a Mercury Prize nominated album, AND you love your mum, let’s go home’. Actually, no, I bet you’re one of those long-term relation types from high school like Roger Federer and his punching-above-his-weight girlfriend. You can do better!!!!

At one instance, he thanked the crowd for singing so loudly, likening them to an Welsh choir without the Welsh. I think it was meant to be a good thing. “Old Pine” was next, described as, ‘a song about summertime’. This was incredible. I have to say though, while I give the crowd phat wraps for their choral-like singing, they clearly need to put their walkers down for a minute and loosen up with a bit of hip shaking. Despite a few, what I wish were trendsetters, there was absolutely zero movement from the moshpit crowd, even for the massive ‘drop’ (if you can call have one during an acoustic performance) towards the end of “Old Pine”. Kids these days…

“Only Love” then came on and it received exactly that from the swooning betches in the front row. The group then launched into a big jam where they played what seemed to be two new songs, each of which featured a sound full of more electric guitar and extended jamming. Those fond of those sort of toons, take note, this next record might be for you. For some reason he apologised for playing such a depressing set on a Friday night, but he essentially played his entire record, so if he’s concerned about that, maybe the apology was better suited for the album’s release date. 

‘Here’s a happy one for you’, was followed by “Keep Your Head Up”, which fit his sentiment quite accurately. He nearly put a few people off side by stating that there are a lot of mental people in Brisbane, clearly not knowing that some conservative Brisbanites may still use this term for a description for disabled people (cf. Stephen Merchant’s description of a ‘mongoloid’ in Extras). Despite that potentially being true, his anecdote reflected that he meant that people were a little crazy, one particular man asking him to pay him to have a look at his tattoos.

“The Wolves” was my second favourite track of the night, but unfortunately the end of the tour was telling for Ben, and he couldn’t quite muster the same intensity for his screaming of the third verse, as other live versions I’d found on the interwebz. And of course, “Fear”. What a ta-uuune. This was his last track before the encore, and he built it up beautifully for the, “And I – I , I become what I deserve”. What a magnificent climax that song has.

BH and his entourage came out for one last song, called “The Burren” or somsing, proclaiming that it was a newie and we were the first to hear it. The good news is that his new stuff sounds epic, if not a little more polished (maybe going in the same direction as Bon Iver, who knows?), and it’s clear that Ben Howard is certainly here to stay. Thanks to Ben and his crew for an amazing night, and for making me feel completely emasculated for the entire show. Can’t wait for next time!

Leave a Reply