LIVE: Ben Fenner @ Gullivers

WORDS BY JODIE BROOKSBANK

Ben Fenner’s first Manchester headline gig was a triumph. It was clear he had the support of the audience, it really did feel like 300 of his closest friends had turned out to support him. Support came from DIIVES; bringing Frank Turner-esque acoustic punk sounds, followed by Sam Leoh whose airy vocals and synth-y dream pop is reminiscent of CHVRCHES.

Fenner took to the stage with his 7-piece band including backing vocals. Each musician brought something unique and created an all-encompassing sound captivating the packed-out room by opening with 2017 single ‘Made to Love’ starting with sparse keys and leading to an explosive harmonic crescendo, it has slightly darker undertones than his other work but shares the same themes of heartbreak and lamentation.

Multiple times Fenner stopped mid-set to thank everyone for the support and to give background on the songs he’s written, it’s obvious that his heart and soul goes into the lyrics he writes, and it takes guts to share that on stage. He explains how ‘I’m Yours’ was the first song he ever wrote and how it led to him moving to Manchester to pursue music.

A break up was the catalyst to most of his songwriting which is what makes it so emotive and so universally relatable. A man excuses himself from the back of the room, picks his way through the crowd to in front of the stage just to shake Fenner’s hand and give words of encouragement. I think that sums up the feel of the entire show. It’s hard to deny that he has a good voice, it’s classically good, strong and impressive. Each song reaches a timely crescendo and his voice builds with the music, it’s a big sound and one which easily fills the venue.

A highlight for everyone seemed to be ‘Perfectly in Love’, his defining single from summer 2018. More upbeat but still as emotive as the rest of the set, he introduces it as a song which celebrates love in all its forms. It appears to resonate with everyone and bring the whole room together. Everyone chanted for more as Fenner exited the stage, but with nothing left to give but love and appreciation the gig was over. The vibe afterward was one of overwhelming goodwill and pride.

Fenner is London-born but now Manchester-based and the support from those he’s met in his *now* home city has led to features on BBC Introducing and having his first packed out headline Manchester show this early on in 2019 at Gullivers NQ it seems a sure-fire that he’ll continue on to sell out venues and most importantly, create music that people connect to.a

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