Portland welcomed back Ben Ottewell Tuesday night for a concert that felt more like an intimate house show than the venue that is Doug Fir Lounge. It was the second to last night of his month long coast-to-coast tour for new album, A Man Apart, before returning home to Brighton to tour the UK. If you are not familiar with Ottewell, you may know him from his band, Gomez, and who can forget that unmistakable voice.
A Man Apart is Ben’s third solo album and follow-up to 2014’s Rattlebag. While deciding on a name for the new album, he settled on A Man Apart, for its pleasing ambiguity. “It could refer to my solo career away from Gomez, or to the crazy populist politics demagogues and thugs that seem to rule our world right now,” he explains. “Or it could simply refer to a broken man; someone who has fallen apart.” I would have to say there was no broken man on the stage that night, (maybe one admittedly a little weary after a month long tour), but he was a man apart from his band and threw out the crowd-pleasing announcement that Gomez would be back next year.
With two acoustics and a guitarlele, Ben walked onstage, picked up his “small guitar” and started his set with “Steal Away” off the new album. He proceeded to play a setlist of songs from his three solo albums, and a handful of familiar Gomez tunes. What made this concert feel so much like a house concert, apart from the simple stage set up, was the intimacy of the crowd with Ben. It felt like you were in a comfortable living room with his closest friends while he bantered with the audience between songs about soccer/football and being disappointed that he would miss getting to see the Timber’s by one night, telling the story of the time he was the “third wheel” one evening with Gomez band member, Ian Ball, their discussions about Nick Drake and Tom Waits, followed by a jam session together which led to Ottewell joining the band.
While the crowd went craziest every time he played a Gomez song, especially to “Hamoa Beach,” I don’t think there was one song the entire night that they weren’t singing along to, so familiar were they with his catalog of music which ranges from Blues, to Americana, and a bit of folk. He is well known for his “deep, raspy” voice and “gravelly baritone” and is sometimes compared to Tom Waits and Eddie Vedder. It is a voice truly unique to him, one instantly recognized, and loved by many. Whether he comes back on another solo tour or with Gomez, Portland will anxiously await his return to get another dose of the voice and songwriting his fans love so well.
Official video for “Watcher,” lead single of A Man Apart
Teri’s Facebook Live Stream video
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