By Warren Wolfe
On Oct. 29, Ben Howard came to Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg to play a sold out show as part of his tour for his critically acclaimed new album, “I Forget Where We Were,” which was released on Oct. 20.
The British singer-songwriter has been praised for his unique vocal and guitar abilities, leading to a prestigious Mercury Prize nomination for his previous album “Every Kingdom” and BRIT awards for ‘Best Solo Male Artist’ and ‘Best Breakthrough Act’ in 2013.
Opening for Ben Howard was Pete Roe, a fellow British artist who brought a very genuine folk performance to the table, highlighted by his storytelling in his music. He was able to silence the large crowd with his captivating voice and guitar playing. The crowd really enjoyed his solo set, and he appeared extremely grateful for that.
Ben Howard began his set with “Small Things,” a track that was a highly anticipated release of his new album after premiering on BBC Radio 1. This album marks a new direction in Howard’s sound, which moved from calm and ethereal to dark and immense.
The difference was immediately apparent in his performance, with heavy-hitting drums and the melancholy hook, “Has the world gone mad, or is it just me?”
He went on to play the title track, “I Forget Where We Were,” a crowd favorite that elicited a collective shouting along of the chorus. Howard showcased his incredible performing talent on songs like “In Dreams,” where he coupled rapid guitar licks with the hauntingly beautiful singing of, “In dreams I have watched it spin, seen the violent crack of our tongues, where all light comes in.”
“End of the Affair,” a sprawling eight-minute song that also featured as a single, solidified Howard’s ventures into a hybrid of intense, almost violently passionate folk and rock music. It also marked his most fantastic performance of the show, with heartbreak in the beginning (“Living without her, living at all seems to slow me down”), moving into a spine chilling guitar outburst with the enraged shouting of “What the hell?”
He continued to captivate the crowd with “Time Is Dancing,” “Evergreen,” and “All Is Now Harmed.” His band was excellent, with multiple guitars supporting him but never overpowering even his softest vocals, which sadly isn’t always the case at other shows.
Many crowd members pleaded for him to play something from “Every Kingdom,” and their prayers were finally answered.
For his last song, Howard played “The Fear,” arguably his most pop-oriented effort, but it was the perfect high energy closer for his show. The crowd clapped along to the thumping drums and joined him in the foot-stomping refrain, “I’ve been worrying, I’ve been worrying.”
Despite Howard skipping perennial favorites “Old Pine” and “Promise,” he backed up his new direction with an outstanding performance.
Warren Wolfe is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org