I have TheRockClub to thank for introducing me to the music of Ben de la Cour. I reviewed his album 'Shadow Land' for them in 2021, and subsequently picked it as my Album of the Year. It was such a major discovery for me that I then went and got Ben's entire back catalogue through Bandcamp, and I participated in the crowdfunder for the follow-up, the Jim White produced 'Sweet Anhedonia', which came out last year. 

 There had been no opportunity to see Ben live until now, as he did not cross the Atlantic, so when a UK tour was announced I immediately decided I would make the trip (from Dublin). I found myself with a group of other folks-in-the-know in the Green Note Basement Bar in Camden.

 After listening to Ben's albums so intently for several years, it felt almost surreal to hear those familiar songs sung by a real person, standing in front of me. I love all the arrangements on the recorded versions, but when stripped down to voice and guitar it felt like the meaning of the lyrics hit home all the more.

 Ben's songs take you to a different world. He can say so much in a few lines. The lyrics conjure up so many images. Characters are introduced in mere lines, and they instantly feel alive. The songwriting is up there with Townes Van Zandt. Take my word for it; I was lucky enough to see Townes four times in the 80s and 90s. Or look up some online reviews for Ben's albums. You'll find nothing but superlatives.

 The show was split into two sets, taking in songs from all Ben's albums bar the debut, and he sang 'The Lakes of Pontchartrain', a song he had heard Peter Case sing when they toured together.

 Towards the end Ben asked if anyone had requests and joked that "he had played all his happy songs". As the saying goes, sad songs make me happy, so I requested the saddest one of all. 'Swan Dive' begins like this: "Joey bounced like a brick from the fourteenth floor window. I watched him go silently all the way down.  An angel in freefall wearing a hospital gown"...

 Ben said this song had taken him five years to write, which made me think of Leonard Cohen, who apparently took five years to write 'Hallelujah'. 

 Other requests were 'Evelyn' from 'Midnight in Havana' and 'Guy Clarke's Fiddle' from 'The High Cost Of Living Strange':

"There's an old fiddle in pieces hanging up on Guy Clarke's wall. Broken forty years ago for reasons unrecalled. But he still keeps it up there so he remembers when he destroyed something that'll never be whole again".

Even though the two sets were generous in length it still felt like it was over too soon. We had been instructed not to speak on the way out, so as to not disturb the concert in the upstairs part of the venue. Green Note is really a true gem for music lovers; a proper listening venue where no one talks through the music.

Ben de la Cour is on tour in the UK throughout July:

 Tour Dates

July 12 - Pound Arts, Corsham

July 13 - Beckchella, Bishampton

July 14 - Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham

July 15 - Dock Town Bar, Barry (sold out)

July 16 - The Bell, Bath

July 17 - Café #9, Sheffield

July 18 - The Hug and Pint, Glasgow

July 19 - The Barrels, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

July 20 - High Forest Community Centre, Sinderhope

July 24 - Green Note, London

 Ben de la Cour on Bandcamp:

Green Note website