It’s almost impossible to believe that Ben Howard used to spend his evenings playing free gigs in the depths of Cornwall. With hasty succession though, his unique sound has merited him with a rising popularity that today is at the peak of its precision; a precision that was certainly well-received by the blessed audience at the Eden Project’s final summer concert.
Harmonica wielding Texan Joe Pug provided the support segment of the evening, and although his country tunes wouldn’t have been to everyone’s taste, there was no denying his awe-inspiring ability. The artist’s comical anecdotes between songs also aided him in supplying an admirable set, however, due to some bizarre twist of misfortune the audience’s attention wasn’t circulating him like he deserved. Everyone was just far too eager to skip ahead to the event’s main course.
Soon enough though, with smoke machines creating an ethereal temperament and the night’s sky making an early debut, Ben Howard illuminated the stage with his presence and created pandemonium as he blasted straight into Small Things, alongside his talented and playful seven-piece band. What was to come was an evening of atmospheric flawlessness.
The audience were crammed into the sold-out venue like sardines in a tin, yet the sea of happy faces were soon dancing along to the range of songs from Howard’s two successful albums. This carefree atmosphere delivered a festival feeling to the event and made me, personally, forget that I was only actually a few miles away from home.
Concert highlights were in infinite supply, and Howard’s rendition of Rivers In Your Mouth was surely one of them. Performed with a haunting profundity, the track illustrated just why the performer has made such a colossal name for himself: By creating atmospheric music that you can emotionally feel for days afterwards. How many artists can you honestly say that about?
Another equally as assured performance was conveyed when Keep Your Head Up was recited. There didn’t appear to be a single audience member who wasn’t singing along to those uplifting lyrics, and it’s revitalising that a display of devoted audience participation finally occurred at Eden this summer.
It would be false to say that Howard was particularly sociable in between songs. He is cursed with a somewhat incoherent speaking voice that makes him sound like he’s perpetually had one too many beers. However, his quality of performance outweighed this lack of personality tenfold. The only other finicky jeer that could be stated would be about the refusal of an encore. I can’t be the only one who sulked all the way back to the car after that particular kick to the face.
The Eden Project has delivered a mixed bag of concerts this summer. Some have been outstanding, whilst others have been lacklustre at best. Event organisers certainly saved the best act until last though, and here’s hoping that Ben Howard returns again to the intoxicating county of Cornwall. Assuming that he never lets the fame blemish his mind, he will always be welcomed back with open arms.
Written by Keira Trethowan
Photography by Craig Taylor-Broad