Live Shots

SXSW Showcase Reviews

Live Shots
Photo by John Anderson

Ben Howard

St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Friday, March 16

"It's a real trip to come out of that carnage into someplace really quiet," marveled Ben Howard to the reverent sanctuary crowd, yet midway through the breakout UK songwriter's set, his acoustic jams had erupted the pews in ecstatic response. The trio opened with "Promise," Howard's harmonies with cellist/bassist India Bourne establishing a meditative hum that swooned into powerful swells à la Damien Rice. "Black Flies" from last year's excellent debut, Every Kingdom, carried a devastating weight in the hallowed hall's darkness, but "Only Love" and "Old Pine" both brought standing ovations as Howard's tenderly unfurling warble leapt atop a deep, wounding bass. The beauty of Howard's songs lies in the delicately uneven phrasing, the play between gently held notes and the rush of lines tumbling forth as if unable to be repressed. Closer "Wolves" exemplified the dichotomy, the poignancy giving way to red-faced howling and a call-and-response with the audience that flowed into a stomped-out fury. Bringing out showcase mates Michael Kiwanuka and harmony-heavy female trio the Staves, the packed stage ensemble contributed to the apparent John Martyn resurgence by delivering a rough but sincere version of the folk legend's "Over the Hill," signifying an assumption of the torch among the new wave of talented young UK songwriters.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Friday Showcases
Friday Showcases
Korea, Japan, Spain, Africa – see the world from single showcases

March 20, 2015

Saturday Interview
Saturday Interview

Kevin Curtin, March 20, 2015

More by Doug Freeman
Texas Platters
Gurf Morlix
Impossible Blue (Record Review)

March 22, 2019

Texas Platters
Warm Sugar
Warm Sugar (Record Review)

March 22, 2019

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle