Norwood Live, Fri 11 Sep.
Ben Ford-Davies warmly greets the crowd, primarily comprising friends, family and well-wishers, and takes a seat at the piano. Welcome to the launch of his album, Papillon. He plays the first few notes of The Right Time, which is included on the new record, but is a song many of these folks have heard before. It is something of a brave move, beginning a concert with a number that showcases your skills on your second-preferred instrument, but Ford-Davies pulls it off with aplomb. It’s a beautiful song, and the vocal talents of this polished performer are immediately made apparent. We are away.
Ford-Davies switches to guitar and launches into the catchy rhythm of the “funky” (his word) Victim Of Society, before slowing things again with All That You Need. These two songs don’t appear on Papillon, but have seen the light of day on Ford-Davies’ live release from a few years back, A New Beginning.
After three solo efforts, Ford-Davies is joined by cellist Briohny Taylor for Water Song. It’s a striking, moody piece; full of understated power, and the cello is both memorable and ethereal. The singing is sublime.
The band continues to grow; Ford-Davies is joined on stage by Ronnie Taheny (piano & vocals), fresh from her impressive support slot. The addition of Fabian Hevia (percussion) completes the line-up. Ford-Davies’ already-accomplished solo persona is taken into another dimension with these various musical augmentations. Songs from Papillon unsurprisingly dominate the set; older compositions like the plaintive In The City sit happily alongside the previously unreleased Still A Boy and Storm, the former garnering generous applause while the latter highlights the value of the onstage collaboration.
There’s a change of pace as Ford-Davies presents Super-Stacker in solo mode, a great poppy tune that deserves wide exposure.
At this point, the gig changes gear. Rather than aim for an emphatic climax, Ford-Davies slows the mood, relaxes with the audience, and has a chat. The band members reappear, one by one, for In The City and the singalong anthem This Road Together. The song is a great closer and, I suspect, would have done the job this evening but Ford-Davies has chosen to finish with the number that brings the curtain down on the album, Papilio Ulysses. He admits that it might be the only time he performs it live, so tonight’s audience can consider itself lucky. The song also allows for all the evening’s musicians to play together, so it is a somewhat fitting conclusion.
There’s no doubting the abundance of talent that Ben Ford-Davies possesses, both as a performer and a songwriter. Throughout the evening, his playing and singing have been splendid, and the band has provided much texture to the musical performance. He flies off to Europe soon, so see him while you still can.