Review: Ben Howard at O2 Academy Brixton, SW9

Had you lost track of Ben Howard of late, the stooped figure standing centre stage would have been unrecognisable. First there was the frock coat that swamped his skinny frame. Then the banks of electronics behind him and in between some of the nine other musicians assembled almost like an orchestra.

Musically, too, there was no trace of the floppy-haired surfer dude from Devon who broke through with 2011’s folky Every Kingdom, a double-platinum debut that won him two Brit awards. In place of strummed acoustic guitars was a wall of atmospheric noise, a rich mix of synths, strings, percussion and guitars that hung like a cloak over the crowd.

The effect was spellbinding, transcendental even. From the moment the show began, with a sumptuous Nica Libres at Dusk, Howard’s gang had fans agape and mesmerised. And like Magic Circle members, how they did it was anyone’s guess.

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