Live Review: Ben Howard, Willy Mason

7 April 2013 | 8:11 pm | Hazal Alkac

The crowd leave blissfully calm from the experience - the perfect finish to a very long weekend.

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The crowd was a little restless at the Metro on Tuesday night as they eagerly awaited the entry of British breakthrough act Ben Howard. The room would cheer in anticipation at the lull of each filler track played after support act Willy Mason, impatiently tapping their feet and clapping their hands, on edge to see the newest folk idol to grace our shores. 

A torch flickers on and off side of stage; the filler music dies and Howard takes his position at the microphone. Greeting the packed out room with a simple “Hello Sydney”, Howard begins to strum the first few chords of his 2011 release, Everything, which is welcomed by some high pitched screams from the crowd.

His somber band, all dressed in monochrome accompanies him, quietly shuffling around the stage, catching each other's eyes and avoiding the glance of the crowd. The band seems to visually represent the gloomy ballads that they are playing.

Howard, however, settles into his show, as each song is greeted with an increasing excitement from the crowd. His lyrics memorized by his fans are shouted back at him from the floor.  The label of folk music has traditionally been given to the music of storytellers – tales told throughout centuries and passed down through generations. Howard is definitely telling his stories; his aggressive break downs and intimate finger picking is all part of his romance, however, as the songs are lined up – sung one after the other, it is clear that Howard has made a home in the comfort of acoustic love ballads and has settled in for the long haul.

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It's interesting to ponder whether this musician would have had such success had he chosen a different genre of music. His unique voice trembles through each world, accentuated by his thick English accent, creating the perfect pallet for such a niche. Had Howard's parents taken an interest in Led Zeppelin or Van Halen instead of Simon and Garfunkel and Van Morison, then maybe Howard wouldn't be selling out shows all over the world, but instead writing a review a lot like this one after finishing that journalism degree he started once upon a time.

But we could rattle off possibilities until the sun comes up. The fact of the matter is that this artist is good at what he does. He taught himself to play the guitar from songbooks his father had written, he has a unique style and it's obvious to everyone watching that Howard loves what he does. His awkward jokes and nervous fidgeting portrays a boy who was just lucky that he got famous performing his passion.

He doesn't seem to take himself too seriously and I get the feeling that he can't wait to get of stage and smash a beer or five, but half-assing the performance isn't an option and Howard is invested in what his art. His mellifluous melodies are infectious and breed epic bromances within the crowd. We seem to be one song away from taking out our lighters and swaying our arms in the air.

The crowd mellows and the anxious twitching has turned into gentle rocking and Howard is finally comfortable up on that platform. Joking that his songs are “depressing”, he takes his new toy koala (thrown from the crowd) and thanks his fans for filling out the room. The crowd leave blissfully calm from the experience - the perfect finish to a very long weekend.