Ben Howard w/ Wye Oak
Paramount, Seattle, WA

A couple of years ago, with the world going through a heavy singer-songwriter phase—like when “Take Me to Church” blew up—Ben Howard’s name floated around a little too. And nothing solidifies fame like having a few of your songs featured on a popular young adult novel-turned-movie like If I Stay. A few years later, Howard is still around and making music just as killer as he used to. With the release of his latest album, 2018’s Noonday Dream, he swung back by The Paramount to win over yet another crowd.

The night opened with Wye Oak, a three-piece that had a sound I can only describe as an alternative take on Florence and the Machine. They kicked off with laidback sounds and strong female vocals that soared through the golden architecture of the venue.

By the time Howard finally took the stage, the standing was beginning to hurt everyone’s feet, but all the pain washed away as the lights dimmed. One thing about Noonday Dream is that it’s very, very different from his older stuff. Sure, it still has his voice, backed primarily by a guitar with minimal flares, but the latest release is much more experimental than his previous work. It strays further from his mellower, acoustic background and adds in longer instrumental segments, more distorted sounds, and a darker overall tone.

Howard’s setlist focused entirely on this new material, with the exception of “Small Things.” For some, getting to hear the new album pretty much in its entirety was a dream, but for some older fans it was also a little questionable.

Regardless of the setlist however, the performance of each song was incredible. Howard spent most of the early performance calmly sitting on a stool, playing his songs, extremely focused and dialed into his music. The movement was minimal, the lights were nothing crazy, everything was left very minimalistic, so the audience could focus solely on the music and his performance.

Though the night may not have been what most expected from him, Howard took the opportunity to show off a different side of his talent, putting his newest album front and center for fans to lovingly enjoy.

Review and photos by Lulu Dawson

Ben Howard

Wye Oak