Review: Ben Howard @ NIA

After an afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of Birmingham the time came to leave the deceptively balmy April sunshine to get a good spot to watch Ben Howard at the Barclaycard Arena.

The support act Aero Flynn did a fine job warming the crowd up with some interesting post-rock textures and clever grooves. Long improvised synth sections fell a little flat at times but I feel like they did well. Its often the luck of the draw with support acts and to have one that was enjoyable is sometimes a bit of a novelty. This Wisconsin based outfit is worth checking out if you enjoy the sounds of Explosions in the Sky and the like. Take a listen to them here.

Having already seen Mr Howard in action in Brussels a few months ago my expectations were high. The band boldly began with Ben's new song 'Am I In Your Light'. This gave a glimpse to any unfamiliar listeners of the rich vocal tone and wonderful guitar textures that the rest of the show had in store. Throughout the show Ben continued to mesmerise with impressive guitar technique and imaginative variations on his studio offerings. His set was clearly built around most recent album 'I Forget Where We Were' with older favourites thrown in for good measure. Particular highlights for me were a powerful rendition of 'Keep Your Head Up' and the closing number 'End of the Affair'. His band were tight throughout the set switching seamlessly between instruments to giving the evening's music a wide sonic scope – they moved between heavy textures with 4 guitar parts to more stripped back affairs involving cello and brushes.

A top drawer performance and fantastic light show coupled with a wonderfully intimate vibe made this a gig to remember.


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Freelance saxophone player

 

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