Monday night at Summer Stage in New York City’s Central Park a Millennial crowd gathered to listen to a sage of their generation, Ben Howard. “I will become who I deserve,” Howard sings wisdom as he plays uniquely created chords. (Howard tunes his guitar differently for various songs).
Multi-talented accompanying musician, India Bourne, dances notes on the bass guitar, cello and drums as she adds her vocals to Howard’s magical songs. “This song makes me want to melt every time I hear it,” the young woman beside tells me as she recognized the beginning notes to “I forget where we were,” a not-as-yet recorded song. “I think the song is so strong because he eludes to an experience he struggles to reconnect with,” the woman continues passionately, “words can’t describe the way I feel when I hear it.”
Outside the concert boundaries, bikers stopped to ask, “What musician is playing tonight?” Very few who are over 30 years old know about Ben Howard (unless they have millennial children or watched Howard on David Letterman last August). While the English singer-songwriter received two Brit Awards for Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Act, also nominated for the Mercury Prize’s Album of the Year, he is just becoming known in the U.S. Howard’s busy summer tour schedule in U.S., Canada and the U.K. may make this lyrical-musical talent more well-known.
“Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong,” chanted the entire crowd along with Howard’s band. Like a group mantra lifts the energy of the earth, Howard’s lyrics can lift a generation to hope. “It’s very peaceful music. I really liked it”, said a young man who heard Howard for the first time. Possibly others in the summer music-goers pack were virgin to Howard’s music. Park visitors in the area could hear the concert and the new sound Howard issues. Clearly, many attendees were big fans gathering for the uplifting experience.
I watched iPhones on flesh tripod arms recording videos and taking pictures. Girlfriends bundled together. Guy friends danced together. Couples snuggled. Men and women equallysought to see and hear the talented musicians illuminate the stage and fill the summer air with sounds as eclectic and harmonious as nature’s.
Howard’s music is diverse — sometimes playing solo acoustic guitar softly; sometimes electric loud. Some songs are haunting like “Esmeralda” or “Oats on the water” with lyrics, “And you’ll find loss and you’ll fear what you found.” Some songs are uplifting like the very popular songs, “Old Time” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Only Love” Yet all the songs create an inner happiness, perhaps because of the many references to nature; perhaps because of an organic sincerity. “I think Ben Howard is a spiritual guy because his lyrics reveal that he definitely gets life lessons”, a fan shares with me afterward.
Perhaps Howard can lead his generation with chords of heart wisdom toward a new world flowing in peace, joy and harmony.