For all his considerable commercial success since 2011 breakthrough debut Every Kingdom, Ben Howard remains a musician on the fringes of fashion. It’s hard to get a fix on his schtick – this modest, introverted performer was literally a shadowy figure, rarely directly lit and mostly to be found hunched over his guitar. Yet his coy voice and soothing reveries often left him musically exposed before his sonorous playing kicked in to fill the vast space of the Hydro.
Ben Howard, Hydro, Glasgow ***
The decision to dedicate his main set exclusively to a chronological rendition of his less familiar new album, Noonday Dream, was a single-minded sign of how much Howard cares for giving the audience what they want.
Despite a full muscular rock band backing, plus synths and strings for that arena- friendly celestial swell, there were moments when the carefully sculpting of sound tipped over into a navel-gazing exercise and the sound of crowd chatter could be heard over the band.
Touching, tender moments emerged from the ether. The mournful lament All Down the Mines dovetailed into a sombre cover of Cat Stevens’ Wild World. The folky melody of There’s Your Man was pepped up with a propulsive Krautrock-influenced rhythm and the mellow vocoder incantation of Murmurations was a lovely, if low-key, set-closer.
Finally Howard threw fans a couple of encore bones in Black Flies, his only offering from Every Kingdom, which was greeted like no other song, followed by the measured canter of In Dreams. - Fiona Shepherd