Live Review: Ben Howard – O2 Apollo, Manchester

Last week, Ben Howard played two sell out shows to eager fans at Manchester’s 02 Apollo. Audiences over the two nights were treated to intense, mind-bending sets where Howard delved deep into exploring his own musical talent. Crowds were invited to immerse themselves into the world of Ben Howard and his eight piece band, to become absorbed by the musicality that was to ensue.

Monday night’s show was evocative on many levels. The set was based around the concept of drone folk – dystopic lighting, imagery of harsh landscapes on loop, dyschordic sounds – at a certain point there was footage of Black Friday playing on a screen behind the band – a comment on capitalism which left audience members unsure whether to feel depressed or exhilarated.

Ben Howard’s style is evolving constantly – as time has drifted on, it is though he has broken free from the shackles of his former commercial sound, his performance style has become more experimental, more political, more forward thinking. On stage, Howard’s persona is introverted and shy and yet his outlandish talent speaks a thousand words.

As one would expect, Howard and his eight piece band mostly played tracks from his latest album Noonday Dream. opening with Nica Libres At Dusk, audiences buckled in for a night of new music, yet were treated at the end to renditions of Black Flies, End Of The Affair and Time Is Dancing.

Though his style is constantly changing, Ben Howard always delivers a top quality show. It is true that audiences hoping for a set full of old-school, debut-album bangers or top quality banter might leave the show with a slightly bitter taste in their mouth, but for the most part, the boy done good.

Jessica Newsome