Ben Howard - Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Last time Ben Howard performed in Cardiff was back in 2012 and he was fresh from the release of his Mercury-nominated debut Only Kingdom. Now he is back with a brand new album and playing his biggest tour to date, buzzing from his prestigious Novello award nomination earlier in the day.
Kicking off the night though is Aero Flynn, who wasted no time in getting the crowd ready for this evening’s headliner. All the way from Minneapolis, their indie pop sound brightened up the Motorpoint Arena with tracks like ‘Twist’, ‘Floating’ and ‘Maker’, giving off a very jazzy vibe which got a few in the crowd moving.
As the lights go down, Howard and his band take their places to kick the set off with one of his many compellingly beautiful tracks, ‘Conrad’. The crowd (and your correspondent) quietly fall in love. Despite this being Howard’s biggest stage, there were no theatrics, no fireworks and no OTT arena production. He timidly gives the crowd a small wave and keeps conversation to an absolute minimum, relying instead on the exceedingly popular 'Small Things', 'She Treats Me Well' and recent single ‘I Forgot Where We Were’ to tell their own stories. The occasional fuzzed up visuals courtesy of a camera strapped to Howard’s mic stand offer a little more visual drama. Other highlights include a full-band incarnation of ‘Rivers in Your Mouth’ (with its wailing lead guitar outro) and a surprisingly delightful cover of Sharon van Etten’s ‘Every Time the Sun Comes Up’.
It's a full five minutes before he returns alone for the encore. Those hoping for a couple of early numbers are not left disappointed. An electrified 'Old Pine' begins, drawing smiles from the faithful before ending on the crowd pleasing ‘The Wolves’. On this showing, don't be surprised if, come 21st May, Mr Howard needs to find some room on his mantelpiece.