Lollapalooza: Ben Howard brings festival together in his last American show

Ben Howard played a transcendent set Saturday at Lollapalooza. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Ben Howard played a transcendent set Saturday at Lollapalooza. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Ben Howard did not play “Old Pine.”

That’s the only bad thing I can say about his set Saturday afternoon at Lollapalooza. And, honestly, it’s not even that bad a thing to say. It’s just my favorite song of his.

The left-handed English guitarist’s set was otherwise perfect. Backed by a five-piece band that seemed there to fill in his finger-picked notes with other sounds like a orchestra backing a soloist, Howard played less than an hour, but it was still a full set.

A new song, “Hello Love,” was one of the best things he did. With lines about not taking things so seriously and holding onto your time together, the song saw Howard fretting notes on his Les Paul overhand while he picked and strummed away with his fingers.

“Only Love” followed and brought cheers when he struck the first note. Later, the audience echoed the chorus as he sang.

“Keep Your Head Up” was one of those transcendent festival moments where everyone is hanging on the same note. In this case, it meant the audience soaring along with a song as they clapped out the chorus.

The set was Howard’s last of his American run of tour dates, and we won’t likely see him back here until next year (and probably with a new album on his hands), and I think it can’t come soon enough. He’s a whole package: a phenomenal guitar player with a vivid songwriting style.

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