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Ben Howard At Barclay Center, Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, Reviewed

Between Haim and Mumford, here comes the English Elvis, according to Mumford And Sons at Barclay Center on Tuesday February 12th, 2013! The 25 year old Limey John Martyn is how Wikipedia lay their claim and I mention the encyclopedia because I came to Ben about as empty a vessel as you can imagine. I may have heard his name here and there but he hadn't registered. Ben Lee? Ben Harper?

He has now and he is a little better than the Everyman singer songwriter persona he promises. On a darkish stage and with a small behind him, he can create a powerful soundscape at odds with the unassuming sounds of 2012's Every Kingdom. The songs have a cling factor to them and his voice is impressive to the degree it is declarative. He is so small and the stage is so large, you get the feeling Este Haim could beat him in an arm wrestling contest.

The sound builds through pretty songs like "Keep Your Head Up" and more powerful, fuller tracks like "The Fear". It is all an acoustic wallow that portends more than it ever can deliver (not unlike the headliners I might) and once I gave myself into the sound I could see why he is popular in the semi-popular neo-folk world.

More modern than Mumford, less so than Haim, there is both a timeless and contemporary yield to his material: he is always building to something, something that he wants to rush you off your feet and on your back though he is too polite to tell you: there is a need to his music, maybe it's the voice, that keeps pulling you in and even when you question his poetry, the sound is strong enough to hold you.

Without knowing Howard or his material, he managed to keep my attention playing somewhat laid back sounds that built through string induced to slapdown sounds and hold 18,000 people.

Grade: B

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