Ben Howard takes Shrine Auditorium on journey

Ben Howard Shrine 2018 mainbar

Last Thursday, English singer-songwriter Ben Howard played his first LA gig since dropping his latest record. He brought his third album Noonday Dream to the Shrine Auditorium.

I had a copy of Ben Howard‘s new record a little bit earlier than most (check out my review), and I’ve grown to enjoy it even more in the ensuing months. I respect and appreciate that his earlier material gave him two roads he could go with his music, and he chose to keep it eclectic and different from the rest of the pack.

Of the nine songs on the record that aren’t an interlude, seven of the songs are at least 4:54. Four of those are over five minutes long. That doesn’t often translate into radio hits, but these songs all lent themselves well to his live show.

Ben Howard allows his music to breathe on stage. The slow builds and crescendos and crashing ambience fit the Shrine Auditorium like a glove. Perhaps the rest of the crowd wasn’t as familiar with the new tunes as I was, as they were mostly in a quietly stunned silence. His musicianship was certainly appreciated.

Ben Howard played all nine non-interlude songs from the new record. That left many wanting more, as it limited him in terms of what old favorites he played. He played the title track from 2014’s I Forget Where We Were, what I still believe to be the best song he’s ever written. But he played it completely stripped down (similar to this video), and I sorely missed the latter half of the song where its depth and layers truly shine through.

One poor chap yelled “Oats in the Water” at least a half-dozen times and didn’t get his wish. But the Englishman did play maybe the most accessible song he’s released in a while, “Hot Heavy Summer” — a song that was a collaboration with Sylvan Esso. That stood out nicely amongst the rest. He closed things out with “End of the Affair”, sending people home happy.

Baltimore indie rockers Wye Oak opened the show with a solid contrasting set to Ben Howard. Their songs don’t often waste much time getting to where they’re going, and it was a tasty appetizer. The title track from this year’s album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs was the highlight of the set for me with its climbing melody.

Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Zoe Sher