Edge, Music, Reviews

Ben Howard shocks crowd by leaving stage without encore

Indie singer-songwriter Ben Howard brought his British tunes to the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The intimate venue afforded the cult followers an up-close glimpse at his surfer freckles and wispy hair.

With the power usually reserved for electronic music, the snare of the drums reverberated in the chests of the crowd, making the performance even better than the studio version. This thump then audibly echoed in the excited claps of the audience.

While his second album, “I Forget Where We Were,” enjoys success in the UK, his name remains underground in the states. Though it was only his first time in Miami, Ben Howard proved to have a fan base in the Wynwood-frequenting, earlobe-stretching, craft-beer-drinking fans of South Florida. Everyone knew the words – an astounding fact, considering the thick accent that Howard himself mocked during a pause.

His words sparse, he addressed the crowd only once or twice in quick, shy phrases. He gives the impression of pursuing the industry not for love of the show or the fans, but purely for the love of music. For the same reason, he surfs in Britain’s freezing coasts – for pure love of the sport.

He sat most of the performance, concentrated on the complex finger picking that gives his music its ghostly, acoustic warmth. He rarely even looks at the crowd, squinting as he produces vocals as smoky as the stage fog that illuminates the stage behind him. He often turns his back to look at and walk among his band.

After about a dozen songs, he ran backstage without a word for what seemed like a well-deserved pause. He still had to come out to play his hit, “Only Love.”

“We want Ben, we want Ben,” the audience chanted hopefully. And waited as the stage managers cleared the stage and shook their heads “no.”

Why didn’t he come back? In a musical case of he said-she said, junior Luisa Andonie and senior Alessandro Valente review the ending of the concert from two different perspectives:

Alessandro Valente:

For a minute I stared at the stage. At the time my feelings were split between the hope for an unexpected comeback and the disbelief for what I knew was actually happening. Suddenly, after being repeatedly pushed from the back I turned and realized that a large portion of the crowd already started flowing outside of the venue in a shared disillusionment. It was at this particular time that I realized it was over. After such an engaging show, we all expected a closing performance. We were wrong. The artist left and the crowd felt betrayed by their idol. While still incredulous about such an anticlimactic end, I could hear diverse comments that all had as a common denominator the profound disappointment for a night that was spoiled by this inexplicable decision.

Luisa Andonie:

Though the lack of encore felt like dessert-less dinner, the strategic disappearance increased the value of his performance. Rather than indulge us, he left us wanting more– a smart technique for a musician trying to set himself apart. Instead of succumbing to the tired troupe of the encore game, he set himself apart by building upon the mysterious aura that his music emblemizes. He did not come to please a crowd. He came to play music. By varying his set lists from encored to non-encored performances, he makes the concert experience all the more live, sincere and unexpected.


Featured image courtesy contactmusic.com

January 26, 2015


Luisa Andonie

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Ben Howard shocks crowd by leaving stage without encore”

  1. pk says:

    I agree with Glen. If you are familiar with Ben and his live shows, you will know that he is very sensitive with his crowds. He is not one to fold to hecklers and does not warmly welcome rude people talking or shouting at his shows.

    His music is meant to be listened to in silence out of respect for the music being played. He just put out a new album, and I am sure people yelling for older stuff was a sign of disrespect to his new work.

    People are idiots.

  2. Glen says:

    I attended the concert and I don’t think that he left without an encore for the reasons mentioned in the article. IMO he left because of his perceived rudeness of the fans. In the breaks between almost all the songs, people were chanting and singing the lines from his first album and were yelling for their favorite songs – almost to the point of harassment. He seemed a bit upset by this, and even commented “I don’t do well with requests”. Again, this is my opinion. If you look at his set-list from both the concerts before and after, he plays encores.

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