A full three decades after the release of his first, and until now, only solo record, North Marine Drive, it’s been something of a renaissance of late for Ben Watt, better known as a DJ, producer, and, of course, the “other one” from Everything But The Girl.
Following on from the critical acclaim heaped upon his memoir of his parents, “Romany and Tom”, and similar praise for his subsequent solo album Hendra, the first night of Ben’s 8 date UK tour to promote it, in accompaniment with album collaborator Bernard Butler, brought him to The Greystones in Sheffield to a sold out, eclectic audience.
Opener The Levels set the scene, Bernard’s slide guitar a minimalist accompaniment, no ‘guitar hero’ histrionics here, Ben’s voice a welcome surprise for those of us not previously familiar with his solo work, and his tales of his collaboration with Robert Wyatt (all bohemia and soya milk…), prior to a sublime Walter And John, bring a touch of levity to proceedings. Butler is the perfect foil throughout, content to let Watt take the plaudits, often sitting away from the stage during Watt’s solo tracks.
With a mix of tracks from Hendra and North Marine Drive, and his Wyatt collaboration, proceedings are sedate, but never dull, Watt swapping between electric and acoustic guitar and electric piano for a couple of numbers.
Stand out of the evening though is Matthew Arnold’s Field, a deeply personal tale, and the moments following its conclusion, as Ben takes a breath, catches himself and takes a step back, clearly overcome with the emotion within the lyrics, makes for a spine tingling performance, and not one I’ll see bettered in a long time…
Set list: The Levels / Golden / Forget Old Flame / Walter And John / Girl In Winter / Nathaniel / Bricks And Wood / The Gun / Matthew Arnolds Field / North Marine Drive / Some Things / Hendra / Young Mans Game / Heart Is A Mirror
Encore: Spring / Old Flame