CONCERT REVIEW // BEN HOWARD // SAMSUNG HALL, ZURICH, 26.11.2018 – A BOAT TO AN ISLAND ON THE WALL

It’s my first time at Samsung Hall, and I’m pretty impressed by the venue, it’s a very modern building. The concert hall itself is quite a thing, it is very spacious with big squares on its wall, a big parterre and seats at the back and above. The acoustic is very neat and spreads well into the venue.

8pm-8.30pm

Hater

Swedish indie-pop band Hater delivers a melodic guitar and drum-based music. The voice of singer Caroline Landahl is angelic and very gentle. You can sense she’s shy when she addresses the audience but the shyness disappears once she starts singing and playing her guitar, although her voice remains rather calm. The guitars are tuned on rather high sounds, rendering the music colourful despite the nostalgia conveyed by the singer’s voice. The drums also add a melodic touch with the drummer banging them softly. The four-piece released their debut album You Tried in 2017 and in September 2018 their second album Siesta was published. A band to add to you playlist!

9pm-10.30pm

Ben Howard

The rather big stage of Samsung Hall is set with a line of 4 poles on its middle, holding lights that go up and down during the concert, also changing colours. On the back of the stage there’s a huge vintage textile screen on which video footage is projected throughout the show.

Ben Howard takes his virtuosity to the next step in his Noonday Dream tour, where on stage he is accompanied by none less than 8 musicians who give his music an intensified depth of instrumentality. There are so many different instruments employed simultaneously that it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart.

At 9pm sharp, Swiss precision, Samsung Hall is left in the darkness, as the musicians take the stage one after the other, acclaimed by the audience, Ben Howard comes at last, embracing his guitar. Straight away the public is deepened into the exceptional beauty of his music. The arches in the background and the delicate picking of the guitar open the song “Nica Libre at Dusk”, taken from his last album Noonday Dream, released in June 2018. The two drummers do each their own thing, one with a delicate touch holding a maracas on his hand and the other one with a slightly harder touch.

Noonday Dream is a lot about the exploration of new sounds and the extension of the sounds existing. The experience is heightened during the live performance. The acoustic of the venue is amazing and the sound is round.

The first part of the concert is dedicated exclusively to Noonday Dream, album which they play in its entirety, respecting the song order as in the LP. The sounds have a thick and multi layered texture. Ben Howard and his musicians also employ vibrations and loops, creating watery sounds that let the imagination and the thoughts run far away from the earth. An example are the delicate “Towing the Line” and the very long and instrumental “A Boat to an Island on the Wall”. In the latter the repetitive guitar riffs resonate into your body so that you can truly feel the vibrations. Ben Howard also modulates his voice accordingly, exploring deeper tones.

This performance requires concentration, each of them is doing his own thing and is completely into it as they join themselves to create a masterpiece, patterned by different sounds that intertwine themselves. The music they play has an incomparable beauty, the audience is very calm, respecting the band’s concentration and deepened fully into the sound and visual experience unfolding before their eyes.

The screen in the back shows video footage from the album, showing Ben in various places in the nature, brief footages of the concert with special filters. Images which heighten the experience of the listener and viewer.
The song is “All down the Mines” (interlude) is accompanied by a Black Friday video footage, the confusion in it due to the shopping rush kind of clashes with the quietness of the song.

Ben Howard is not an artist that interacts enormously with the audience by talking to them or so, but during the concert he tells the audience : “You know that they just landed on Mars? And it looks awful!”. The audience laughs and he smiles.

After having played all the songs of his last album, Ben Howard and his band leave the stage. He soon comes back for an encore accompanied by Mickey Smith on the synths. He sits down and plays a very touching acoustic version of “I Forget Where We Were”, taken from the album of the same name. The light dim blue and he starts singing softly.

During the mind blowing “End Of The Affair”, Ben Howard turns away from the audience to rise the volume of his guitar to increase the intensity and the picking of the chords of his guitar. He strums the strings as if he had to breathe through his guitar, and the result is incredibly powerful! He then plays a beautiful cover of “Wild World” giving it his own personal touch adding to it the watery guitar sounds using the loop, heightened by the synths in the background.

The concert ends on the notes of “Hot Heavy Summer”, which wraps the audience in a forest of delicate sounds. Ben Howard takes a bow and thanks the audience, smiling and leaves the stage as his band keeps on playing for a bit longer before bidding goodbye and leave. The lights turn on, the dream is over, but the feelings and memories remain and live on. Unforgettable.

Simona @TakeMe2aConcert

Setlist:

Nica Libre at Dusk
Towing the Line
A Boat to an Island on the Wall
What the Moon Does
Someone in the Doorway
All Down the Mines (interlude)
The Defeat
Agatha’s Song
There’s Your Man
Murmurations
I Forget Where We Were (encore)
End of the Affair (encore)
Wild World (encore – Cat Stevens’ cover)
Hot Heavy Summer (encore)

 

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