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Ben Howard has taken every thought you’ve ever had in your mid-twenties and crafted it into a folk ballad of epic proportions. Be warned; his songs will get you right in the feels.
If you were expecting to see an unassuming guy with an acoustic guitar playing some low-key folky surf rock tunes, then chances are you got a whole lot more than you bargained for. While the kid may have a pretty laid-back reputation IRL, he certainly doesn’t hold anything back on stage.
With a five-piece band and an impressive light show behind him, he kicks off the night with the atmospheric Conrad off his latest album I Forget Where We Were. It’s a huge opener and effectively sets the tone for the evening: hold onto your fedoras hipsters, we’re in for a big one.
It’s clear Ben’s not one for banter, letting his lyrics speak for themselves as he powers through Time Is Dancing and Rivers In Your Mouth. By this stage it’s also clear every Brit on a 417 Visa in Sydney is here. Motherland represent.
Next up is a haunting cover of Jessie’s Wares Wildest Moments, followed by In Dreams, which gets a stunning cello accompaniment. The Wolves off his debut album Every Kingdom, receives an overwhelming response from the crowd complete with a #flawless sing-along effort from one and all.
Staying with the older tracks, Black Flies and Keep Your Head Up turn the steady sway into the slightly more aggressive version bordering on actual dancing.
His songs have a way of sneaking up on you. Somewhere after the soft verse and chorus the track bleeds into an epic instrumental, and suddenly, s**t gets heavy. Small Things and All Is Now Harmed go off, before the The Fear and End Of The Affair wrap things up the evening.
By the time encore rolls around the crowd is well rowdy, with everyone having spent some quality time in the festival-length bar line throughout the evening. It’s Saturday night after all. There’s some next-level foot stomping before Ben’s back on stage to deliver his final song for the evening, Esmeralda.
All up it’s an impressively dynamic set and the crowd are clearly reluctant to stumble on home. But it’s okay guys, Ben understands, you just got to “keep your head up, and your heart strong”, and everything might just turn out okay.
Image: Ben Howard @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 30/05/15 / Pic Ashley Mar