Having conquered the charts, gained a coveted Mercury Prize nomination and even gone Gold in the UK. This then, three nights at Brixton surrounded by a series of other national dates; is the victory lap for Every Kingdom, released 15 months ago and keeping Ben Howard on the road ever since. These nights appear to be the limbo for him’ trapped in the knowledge he could sell out Wembley Arena but in the want to maintain some level of intimacy.
It doesn’t seem to faze him though as he steps out onto the huge stage with his full band. Humble as ever, he gently breaks into the title track of the new Burgh Island EP. It’s dramatic, as is most of his new material, but hardly an apt choice for such a show and you instantly start to wonder if Ben is capable of filing such a space.
Old Pine kicks off the night properly though and Brixton Academy briefly stops being a big old theatre and for a short period of time anyway, becomes a room of (mostly young, female) fans having a good time and Howard sharing in that love.
Doing little more than smiling and thanking the raucously loud crowd for their adoration, Howard at times feels the unwilling leader of the masses; this is, until he breaks into his next track. You can almost visibly see him get lost into the music he wrote and at times he hardly seems as if he’s in the same room as everyone else.
“I’m going to tell you a secret now that I’ve not told anyone before” he starts. “That last song [Keep Your Head Up]; I didn’t mean it when I wrote it, but now, I kind of do.” He smiles again with a smile so infectious you hardly even question how much of Howard’s music he really means with this. Nonetheless, he appears to have followed the words he didn’t really believe in and they’ve set him in good stead so maybe there’s genuine inspiration in there somewhere.
Closing his main set with The Fear, there’s a certain resounding feeling that maybe this could be the last we see of Ben Howard for a while. “I’ve been worrying that my time is a little unclear. I’ve been worrying am I losing the ones I hold dear? I’ve been worrying that we all live our lives in the confines of fear”. Perhaps its just another big single he doesn’t really mean, but you can’t help but wonder that maybe in escaping his confines and keeping his friends in his band on the road with him; he’s lost something else.
Nonetheless, the encore goes on as we hear new track The Burren sound promising, if remaining in the area of dark-new material and Promise closes the night in apt fashion. It's been his night once more, but you can't help but feel that it's time for Ben Howard to go home for a while.