Ben Howard at 3Arena, Dublin – Review
The man of the night slips onto the stage under the cover of darkness. The crowd squeals with delight – heightening decibels reflecting the bursting bubbles of excitement. Howard’s silhouette stands strumming a guitar. This intro is dripping in cool. He hums into the mic while a rainbow mist fills the screen behind. Slow psychedelic sounds and his husky, humming voice maintain a vibe which is best described as that similar to a solemn night-time drive. He kicks off the show with the sobering ‘Am I In Your Light’ – a dark and poetic tone that sets out the scene for the evening.
An early highlight comes in the performance of the brilliant ‘I Forget Where We Were’. This moment is pleasurable as the crowd loyally chirp back the chorus. A notable image of the drummer appears on the back screen, exhibiting an admirable intensity in his face – a refreshing glimmer of passion.
Throughout the night, Howard’s material remains predominantly on the same level – keeping the vibe chilled. This is an ode to his style but eventually the lack of energy brings the event to the realms of dullness & hard to endure. That matched with his severe lack of audience interaction keeps the show lacking a gripping nature. There are better moments – like enjoying the brilliant tune ‘The Wolves’ in which his guitar skills dazzle. The audience also perk up and keep a buzz with clapping and whistling for one or two more popular tracks. However overall that buzz doesn’t soar or last. The show feels let down by a lack of build and excitement.
The large screens at opposing sides of the stage are not in use – which proves itself to be a poor choice. Those at the front certainly would have an enhanced experience but for those further back it is a total loss of connection to the musician. It is a strain to look closely at the band and we cannot see Howard’s facial expressions. This is very much a dissatisfying aspect of the night. After all, it is seeing the likes of those little grins cracked by the performer, or appreciating the intensity in their face, that makes a gig that bit more special.
In his songs we often see poetic connotations and praiseworthy depth like in the line “All I was searching for was me” in ‘Keep Your Head Up’. This pensive lyrical beauty is one of Howard’s most dazzling qualities. If only this show was in a smaller venue – where his exquisite musicianship would’ve been fully soaked up. In a better setting, or with use of the big screens we would’ve been much more absorbed into the superbly unique world of Ben Howard’s music. After all, he is undeniably a divine artist. Yet sadly on this occasion, there were a few too many things that could’ve been done better.
See also: Ben Howard at 3Arena – Photos