Gig review: Ben Howard @ O2 Apollo, Manchester

Ben Howard kicked off his UK tour with an entrancing, note-perfect performance at Manchester’s O2 Apollo last night.

A sea of dark light greeted him in shadow as the singer-songwriter treated the sold-out crowd to an encapsulating performance where his sophomore effort I Forget Where We Were was nearly played out in its entirety.
The transfixed crowd watched in silence as his voice echoed around the walls, his delicate melodies and restless flicking of guitar strings bringing a calming stillness over the crowd.
Undeniably a master of his craft, Howard boyishly interacted with the crowd and his easy, infectious nature warmed his fans from the bitter Manchester winter.
The setlist was darkly seductive, reflective of the more mature sound of heartbreak from his second album.
At times, it was hard to not just stop and stare as Rivers in Your Mouth reached its show-stopping crescendo, its architect thrashing the guitar in his seat as a cacophony of lights blazed around him.
The post-show reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive:
Small Things’ broody overtones saw the lights drop low and Howard’s voice boom out of the darkness.
Howard’s priority is the music and this was reflected in a rather mismatched opening night which revealed his uncertainty on how he wanted to direct the proceedings.
His audience had total respect for him, but with only The Fear, of his debut album, Every Kingdom, played out between the newer material, there was a sense of unfinished business as he left the stage, with many eager fans anticipating more of his well-known tracks.
But not everyone was convinced by his set list:
The night truly reached its peak in a blistering finale of gut-wrenching emotion in End of the Affair and the frantic shrilling of guitars in Oats in the Water.
Whilst a pleasure to behold, the London-singer’s deeply gothic stage set-up and preference of his latest album seemed almost like he was trying to hide away from his more upbeat music, and continue to advance into his progressively darker sound.
Image courtesy of Braden Fletcher, with thanks

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