Ben Watt kicked off his current UK & Ireland tour in Brighton last night and he did it with both style and substance. Joined by Rex Horan on acoustic and electric bass and well as harmonies, Makoto Sakamoto on drums and the guitar master Bernard Butler, Watt moved from electric to acoustic guitar to Wurlizer electric piano while delivering a well sequenced set that was a satisfying balance of light and shade. The tunes were mostly from Watt’s last two albums ( this year’s Fever Dream and 2014’s Hendra) but there were also some Everything But The Girl songs as well as a few early solo works.
Ben is an engaging host: inviting us to enjoy ourselves and often explaining the context or genesis of the songs. His pitch perfect but unornamented vocals and Butler’s cutting guitar float and bob on the rhythm section’s lithe dynamic pulse and it feels complete: the right mixture of the familiar and the fresh. Watt’s jazz influences are especially apparent in the older songs and this is a nice contrast to some of the more recent material which tends to rock more. Deep songs, dramatic guitars, pulsating bass and drums coupled with energy and purpose – yes we have some quality music here. Onstage at 8:30 and leaving us at 10:15 it made for a very enjoyable Sunday night and a great start to the tour. Props to the engineer as well as the sound in the venue was pristine.