Surfing’s new pin-up boy tore into Manchester last night, but Ben Howard is less well known for his carving turns on the wave than his crafted tunes on the stage.
From the moment the haunting opening line of Depth Over Distance pierced the room, a call to attention for the hairs on the neck, the whole audience knew that it was about to witness something special. And so it proved. Ben, supported by India Bourne and Chris Bond navigated their way through a set filled with beauty and emotion. There are no fancy effects or visual light shows here, this is pure passion stripped to the bone and delivered with a deep sincerity.
In the confines of the Ruby Lounge you could almost taste the oestrogen in the air, there’s no doubt that Ben’s Devonshire surfer style adds to his appeal and it didn’t take long for the declarations of love and marriage proposals to rein in from his adoring fans, not all of which were female. Ben was almost bashful in his grateful acknowledgment and playful responses, it’s a situation that he’s no doubt becoming very accustomed to, but by enlarge he was content to let the music do all the talking.
He led the audience in a mass sing-a-long to a collection of his most well known songs, Old Pine, Keep Your Head Up, and The Wolves. The contrast in audience reaction between the up-tempo hits to when Ben returned on stage solo to perform Bones was starkly harrowing. As Ben sat alone on stage with his guitar you could have heard a pin drop to the ground in the audience such was the attentive silence afforded to him.
As Ben Howards profile continues to rise like a storm swell, he may have to become more accustomed to a different kind of green-room than the one he’s used to amongst the waves.