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July 31, 2013

On Monday night Rich and I took a train into NYC and walked 35 blocks and 2 avenues to the Central Park summer stage setup to see Ben Howard live. I've talked about him before, here and briefly here. He has a really breezy summer sound, so seeing him as the sun was going down in the middle of summer was absolutely perfect. And with wine in hand - even better.
He had an opener, Michael something. And to be honest, I don't even care enough to look up what his last name was. He was a good singer and had a good band, but to be honest he was just so boring. Ben Howard has a pretty upbeat sound with some exceptions, so having someone come in with really slow music and dragged out vocals was a bummer. It was not the type of thing I'm into, so standing in the hot sun in kind of uncomfortable sandals after walking all the way there were feelings only highlighted by my boredom. I feel bad for saying that about him because he did have talent, it was just not for me at all, especially under the circumstances.
Then the sun started to set a bit, the breeze found us, and Ben came out. He was just so good. I (mostly) forgot about how much my legs and feet hurt and just enjoyed the show. He played most of the songs from his one album, so singing along to them was fun, but I also love that he sang two or three new songs that sound really promising. He's only 25, and even though he's not very famous in the US, I'm sure he's on his way just like every other British singer/songwriter or band that I like. He's well known in England because he won an award or two earlier this year, one of them definitely being 'Best Male', so that was a big deal. I was surprised how many people were at the show, but a lot of people were noticeably British themselves, and the Americans that were there were of a certain type kind of. Ben Howard will most likely never be a name we hear on pop radio, but then again, I said that about Ed Sheeran and he's all over it now.
On the album the music isn't too rock-band-ish, but he definitely perked up a few of the more upbeat ones to a rock standard, which was really cool. His band was really good, and one of the members was this girl who was totally B.A. She sang back up vocals, and played like forty different instruments, including the cello (maybe it was a bass), and just danced around on stage like she was having the time of her life. She was real cool, and also funnily enough she was pretty tall for a girl, meanwhile Ben is a tiny little nugget of a man.
He played for a little over an hour and ended with an elongated version of his song 'The Fear'. He came back out for a three song encore, one of them brand new, and played alone. He used his guitar lying down in his lap to make a bunch of different musical sounds, which is similar to the type of thing Ed Sheeran does a lot, and then he ended his encore set with 'Promise' and a lot of extra instrumentals from him and his band.

At the end of the night we were sitting on a train with an annoying group of people, our legs were burning, and I was exhausted for work in the morning, but it was well worth it. I'm glad I got to see him at a smaller venue and pretty up close, because I've learned the hard way with other 'unknown' bands that from here on out the tickets will only get more expensive and my seat further away with time.

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