Concert Reviews

Ben Howard at Massey Hall

Photographs by Neil Van.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard a single recording from English singer-songwriter Ben Howard.  I have “seen” him once before though.  He drew one of the larger and more fanatical crowds at the 2013 edition of Montreal’s Osheaga Festival.  His indie-styled folk went over my head across the vast main stage area.

In town for the first of two sold out shows at Massey Hall, Howard and his crew delivered over 90 minutes of some much needed warm comfort on a stormy Super Bowl Sunday to plug his most recent second album, I Forget Where We Were.

Seemingly from out of nowhere, Howard has built an impressive fan base, with little assistance from traditional radio and video channels.  I’m not sure how he got this big avoiding my radar almost completely, but he did.  A big reason I braved the elements last night was to figure out who this fan base was and why all the quiet fuss.

As it turns out, Howard has tapped into the veins of our youth.  A vast majority of the crowd appeared to be fresh out of frosh week with only a scarce scattering of the grey haired specimens I find solace with. 

These kids were definitely on to something though.  The only thing that really surprised me with the evening was how this compelling man eluded my music library.  His songs were quite moving; the sound was sublime and he and the band came armed with an impressive arena-worthy light show.  His finger work on the guitar was mesmerizing and the cinematic touches to his songs gave them some extra depth.  

While it took about five songs in for Howard to address the crowd, he let his guitars and vocals do the talking.  A little awkward in the banter department, Howard asked the crowd if they had any jokes to share when someone shouted out… tell a story.  In case you hadn’t noticed, he was telling stories throughout the night!  I’m not sure if he usually tells stories, but if I need a story to be told, I ask my mom to read me Dr. Seuss at bedtime.

Opening up was Montreal’s The Franklin Electric who had dropped their latest album, This is How I Let you Down just 6 months ago and created much buzz in Europe. I only managed to catch the tail end of his set but by the final song, and they had the entire house on its feet. Definitely keep you eyes on them.

Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.