Ben Montague with special guest Emma Stevens

Thursday 1st October 2015

St Pancras Old Church, London, United Kingdom

Now I have been a fan of Ben Montague for many years and have followed his career not only as a songwriter and musician but also his work with the company The North American Guitar which he co-owns with his father Robert Montague CBE. When I heard that Ben was going to be releasing a new album ‘Back Into Paradise’ via PledgeMusic I was interested to hear his new material.

Our review of ‘Back into Paradise’ is available to read here: http://justlistentothis.co.uk/reviews/ben-montague-back-into-paradise/

This show was the first date of Ben’s UK ‘Runaway Tour’ and it took place in the hauntingly beautiful surroundings of St Pancras Old Church in London. I had been there before to see Gabriella Cilmi a few years before, but on this chilly autumnal October night my friend and photographer Kieran White and I took some time to get our bearings walking from Euston train station (for future reference, Mornington Crescent tube station near Koko in Camden is a lot closer as I found out when we left the venue!)

The evening started with singer-songwriter Emma Stevens who is from Guildford, Surrey a part of the world that Kieran and I know well. Walking onstage with a guitarist and bassist/percussionist, she talked to the audience and asked ‘Who’s come the furthest to be here?’ A woman down the front said ‘Sweden’ and she dedicated her song ‘Anywhere’ to her. As she played her ukulele I felt the song was pleasant to listen to but something was missing for me. ‘Make My Day’ received a warm crowd reaction and I suspect that was in part down to the national radio airplay it had received.

Emma explained to the audience that she was a fan of the BBC television series QI and that in one episode, the host Stephen Fry was discussing helium and how it was running out. This led to her penning a song entitled ‘Helium’ much to the delight of a man in the audience who bellowed ‘Can’t go wrong with QI!’ Credit to her band during this number as the bass solo was superb and the acoustic guitar was fluid.

She closed her set with ‘Riptide’ which she told us was downloaded on iTunes by 200,000 people and I could understand why with the cool country vibe it evoked. I’m glad that I’ve seen Emma Stevens live as people had mentioned her to me previously but I personally wouldn’t seek out her material. For more information on Emma Stevens visit: http://emmastevensmusic.com/

After an interval, Ben Montague appeared onstage with an acoustic guitar in hand and his drummer Mark Pusey as they went straight into the title track of the new album and Ben’s vocals were stunning especially in the intimate surroundings. ‘We Start Over’ had tight Massive Attack style drumming from Mark and it blended well with Ben’s emotionally charged lyrics.

One thing I have noticed about some artists in a live setting (not naming anyone), is that they don’t interact with the audience a lot and have the ‘plug in and play’ attitude. Ben is on completely the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to this, ‘A lot of artists are quite serious when they do shows. I don’t do that because you’re here to have a good time and I’m here to have a good time as well. Let’s keep it upbeat.’

He explained that he had a new guitar effects pedal that created an organ sound and it would be perfect in a church. Unfortunately, Ben had some technical issues with his new gear but he has been touring for many years so he isn’t going to halt the show or walk off the stage. He then asked the crowd if they had any songs they wanted to hear and it was very clever as he inter-weaved new tracks such as ‘Serendipity’ and Ben Montague classics like ‘Love Like Stars’ which had the audience singing along as Ben stepped away from the microphone and went a capella. That is  something which has always impressed me and it reminds me of Pat Monahan, the lead singer of San Franciscan band Train who does this regularly during their live shows.

Sending Mark off stage for a bit, Ben treated us to a solo acoustic set and new song ‘Broken’, which had been left off the new album, much to the disappointment of some of his fans in the crowd. One of the highlights for me during this set however was when Ben sat down at a Yamaha keyboard and performed the beautiful ‘Haunted’ which is the track that showcased not only his musical talent but also his songwriting ability to the world.

‘I’ve messed up the set list so badly!’ Ben joked. But the truth was, it wasn’t obvious that he had messed anything up as he interacted with the crowd, played a healthy mix of old and new material and left the audience with smiles on their faces.

In my view, Ben Montague is one of the songwriters of our generation because he is able to really connect with the listener and be completely genuine when he sings. It is that quality that has allowed him to support artists such as Shane Filan, The Wanted, Suzanne Vega, Boyzone over the years.

It is no surprise at all, that he is going to be the special guest on two of Simply Red’s shows at Brighton Centre in November 2015 and with his new album ‘Back into Paradise’ he has a wealth of material to pick from. If you can, go see Ben Montague live in these intimate venues and as a special guest on these arena tours as it won’t be long before he will be headlining the arenas in his own right.

You can read Ben Montague’s 20 Questions feature here: http://justlistentothis.co.uk/20-questions/ben-montague-20-questions/

 Ben Montague’s new album ‘Back Into Paradise’ is out now. In addition, Ben will be performing in the UK and Ireland in 2015 at the following venues:

Thursday 22nd October 2015 – The Victoria, Swindon (Headline Show) http://www.seetickets.com/event/ben-montague-special-guests/the-vic/867534

Friday 23rd October 2015 – Glee Club, Birmingham (Headline Show) https://www.glee.co.uk/live-music/

Saturday 24th October 2015 – The Louisiana, Bristol (Headline Show) http://www.seetickets.com/search?q=Ben+Montague&search=

Sunday 25th October 2015 – The Musician, Leicester (Headline Show) http://www.themusicianpub.co.uk/

Saturday 28th November 2015 – Brighton Centre, Brighton, (Special Guest for Simply Red) http://brightoncentre.co.uk/whats-on/2015/simply-red/

Sunday 29th November 2015 – Brighton Centre, Brighton, (Special Guest for Simply Red) http://brightoncentre.co.uk/whats-on/2015/simply-red/

Saturday 12th December 2015 – Bello Bar, Dublin, Ireland (Headline Show)  http://bmmusicshop.bigcartel.com/product/ben-montague-live-in-dublin

For more information and merchandise visit: http://www.benmontague.co.uk/

(Photos by Kieran White of KW Media. Thanks to Lewis Fromberg at Deacon Communications for help with this review)