NICK MULVEY, BEN HOWARD
The long awaited return of Britain’s beloved troubadour came on a blustering Friday night. Astor Theatre was comfortably filled for opening act, Nick Mulvey, who offered the amuse-bouche of folklore, almost an exact concept of the headliner’s genre, and yet lacking the pure energy of a musical enigma. Mulvey, a fellow Brit, was warm and engaging, reminding the crowd of how “lovely” it was to meet them, and told stories in every one of his songs. He had a very comfortable presence, but in spite of his efforts to satisfy a crowd that were in need of foreign folk, there was a palpable anticipation of a sound that only one man could provide.
Like a bride on the wedding day, the enchanting Ben Howard took his time approaching the stage, which caused several false alarms of welcoming cheers. Finally the wait was over, and the house lights dimmed to welcome him officially. To the surprise of many, the folk singer pacified his peers, softly warbling a moody opener. A white light washed over the reverent room, casting a silhouette the man himself. No audience had ever been both enthralled by an act and silent to watch his every move. Early in to the show, Howard shared a new song, unreleased and by all appearances, untitled. He later called it a world premiere, following a line of brand new material that was seldom recognised. In the moments of nostalgia, voices chanted along to Black Flies, with the tag line, “Baby you were the ocean, and I was just a stone,” a line that was sung by all. Howard changed guitars several times and continued to enjoy the positive affirmation hollered at him between songs. With a smile he began playing, The Wolves, which caused a unanimous uproar of vocals and dancing. The humble singer-songwriter agreed to sign a t-shirt and he engaged in banter with a few charismatic folks up front. After playing a series of lullabied anthems that elicited sways throughout the stadium, he then awoke Astor with the hit single, Keep Your Head Up, before finishing with the outrageously contagious pop single, The Fear. Howard graciously bowed and left the stage without an encore. The house lights blared and exit music played, but still the crowd stood chanting. He was the perfect gentleman who kept his many admirers in awe and undoubtedly wanting more.