Ben Montague at the Back Room Bar
For centuries, Britain has boasted a strong lineage of folk balladeers, and, more recently, a similar pantheon of pop and rock celebrities. On the evening of Thursday 19th May 2015, as the audience pack into the Hard Rock Cafe’s Back Room Bar in Mayfair for a live performance from singer-songwriter Ben Montague marking the release of his new album Back Into Paradise, it is hard not to reflect upon that lineage. The venue is tiny, the definition of “intimate”; a simple rope cordon is all that separates the artist from their fans. Old ceiling and wall panelling is adorned with vintage rock band relics. It certainly sets a precedent.
Montague appears from nowhere, to little fanfare, looking refreshingly subdued for a man with two albums and a third about to launch. With no messing around, save for a quick wave to the crowd, he launches into his first number Looking for Love, and this sets the tone perfectly. Like a younger incarnation of Frank Turner, Montague’s lyrics speak of wisdom beyond his years, and yet the chorus is closer to a pop ballad, a catchy, sing-along phrase set to rich and harmonious chords that lend it pleasant earnestness. The instrumentation of two guitars and Montague’s soulful, powerful voice serves to augment the emotion of the song. It is hard to imagine any better way to listen to these tunes than in their raw, acoustic form.
The rest of the set largely follows the same formula: Gonna Love Again, We Start Over and the album’s title track Back into Paradise all exhibit that simple combination of engaging wordplay, memorable chorus hooks and earnest, melodic chords. Nevertheless, each song is inventive enough to avoid a sense of repetition. Runaway presents a more understated reprieve from the soaring transcendence of other tracks. Former single The Truth and closing song Sweet Amelia are the closest thing to crowd-pleasers in the set, and it is in these that Montague’s charisma shines through.
It’s almost a shame when, the final note having been strummed, Ben Montague returns with little ceremony to the crowd and the bar begins to resemble an office party rather than an intimate acoustic concert. The lasting impression is of an artist who has brought together the best of both worlds: the lyrical honesty of folk singer-songwriters, and the memorable tunes of boy-band ballads.
For further information about Ben Montague and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Back Into Paradise here: