Packed to the brim with fans, the Commodore Ballroom hosted Ben Howard on Wednesday night. And fans of this guitar-playing, dimple-clad Englishmen did not leave disappointed. Playing many songs from his inaugural album Every Kingdom, he played his heart out to a sold-out crowd that sang along to nearly every single song.
There were two openers this night: Gil Landry and Marcus Foster. Landry is a one-man, guitar band who makes some very mellow music but it was nice and well played. Foster was similar but I was told by a friend beforehand to get there in time to see him play because “his stuff is good”. And it was. Two solid openers who played well and got the crowd warmed up for the main attraction.
By now, most people know that when the curtains begin to lower over the windows at the Commodore, the show is about to begin. Promptly at 10:05pm, those curtains began to descend and the crowd started to cheer. The moment he walked on stage – all smiles and what seemed like shyness – the crowd erupted with excitement. The first song he played was new, but then he launched into “Black Flies” and that’s when the crowd moved. Standing at the front of the stage I could see and hear Ben Howard probably better than those standing at the back of the crowd, but it wasn’t so much what I could see and hear as much as what I could feel. Once he began to sing, every voice in that venue sang along and we could all be heard over Ben’s own voice. Then we all kind of swayed in time with his playing. It was very cool and it doesn’t happen very often to see the audience get into a show like that.
Ben played with a group of incredibly talented people – on a couple of songs, the drummer played both percussion AND bass. If that’s not some serious talent, then I don’t know what is. With every song they played, you really got a sense of the kind of person Howard must be. Listening to his mellow folk rock music and lyrics probably gives you a glimpse of an old soul who is a total feeler. But when you see him play live and you see a surprised smile light up his face each and every time the crowd sings louder than he does (which was a LOT), it was almost like seeing beyond the musician to get a glimmer of the humble guy he must be.
I could be wrong though. It could all be a marketing ploy to seem that endearing…but I doubt it.
That night at the Commodore was one I won’t soon forget. From the friendly audience that surrounded me and who let me back in after a much-needed stop at the restroom to Ben and his band, everything about that night felt right. There were no flashy lights to distract you from the music, and as Ben played songs like “Diamonds”, “Only Love”, “Old Pine”, “The Wolves”, “Keep Your Head Up”, and more I couldn’t have asked for more. It was the kind of show a concert addict, like me, is always looking for.