When I heard that Ben Howard was including Lisbon in his Noonday Dream album tour I was thrilled. Finally, here was the opportunity to watch a live concert of an artist I’ve been admiring for a long time.
The gig started with Ben seating in the middle of the stage, surrounded by the rest of the band in a very gloomy and introspective atmosphere. Looked promising.
As he ‘delivered’ – there is no better verb to apply here – the songs from his most recent album, he felt deeper into his own world, not even bothering to greet the audience. And I don’t mean “greeting” for entertainment purposes, but solely out of respect for the people that were in the same room, who by chance happen to be his fans. Nothing, nada, zero. On his fourth song he murmured “thank you”, halfway through the concert he did the same thing and then once again at the end. That was it for Ben Howards’ words in Lisbon.
I’ve been reading comment on his work about how he dislikes the fact that musicians are seen as “entertainers” by the public. I mean, there is no need to bring exotic dancers and fireworks to the stage, just showing some respect would have been enough.
Ben Howard is a good singer, flawless when it comes to the quality of the music he delivers, but that is not enough to go on tour. There was no improvisation whatsoever, it felt like I was seating in my living room listening to his album (which I should have done to spare 30€).
I’ve noticed that the chosen venues for the tours are theatres most of the time, which is a smart decision. In Lisbon, the concert took place at Coliseu dos Recreios, an amphitheatre with a central space where chairs can be removed. It clearly was a mistake to remove the chairs so that people could stand for this concert. If Ben Howard wants intimate concerts, then he must demand to perform in smaller venues where everyone is seating down.
If an artist feels like he is not understood by his fans or that he is too good for their level of understanding of how music should be performed live, then maybe leaving the studio is a bad idea.