Ben McKelvey is having a very good start to 2017. His debut album “Life & Love In England” is out and has already had success reaching the no. 6 spot in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart, and top 50 in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart in Germany, and he is currently touring as the opening act for Mike & The Mechanics on their 32 date UK “Word of Mouth” Tour. I caught up with Ben at The Edinburgh stop of the tour at The Festival Theatre, and it was nice to see the venue so full of people coming in to hear a support act as, so often on tours, people just turn up for the main performers.
Ben McKelvey may have just released his debut album, but at 28 years old, he has been writing songs since he was 14 years old, and has hundreds of his own performances to his credit already, and those long years of playing pubs, clubs and anywhere else that allowed was showing through in tonight’s 35 minute opening set with a confidence and ease with an audience that only comes from getting out there and doing the job.
I have seen some references around to Ben’s music echoing that of an early Bruce Springsteen, but I didn’t come away with that impression. I saw Bruce Springsteen when he came to the UK way back in 1980 (and he was far from a household name then), and although there are some common elements in some song structures and some vocal phrasing that to me is where the references end. Ben McKelvey is not some younger version of anyone, he is different enough to be himself, and is a gifted songwriter with a storyteller’s observational eye about his surroundings and the people he knows and meets along the way. Ben has a skilful use of words and a storyteller’s talent of sometimes approaching a common subject from a slightly different angle to get a unique take on things.
As you would expect, with a debut album to promote, some of the songs came from the “Life & Love In England’ album, and songs like “Morning I'm Gone” and “Only Here Once” show what a solid songwriter Ben is developing into.
Other tracks not on this album, “Curse of The Town” and “Sunday” show a wider range of Ben’s writing talents, and if I was to choose a favourite from the show, it would be the last one mentioned here – “Sunday”. This track is just a perfect little picture in words of the Sunday after the night before, and a small number of copies of the CD it comes from are at time of writing still available from the Ben McKelvey website at http://www.bmckmusic.co.uk
I liked Ben’s songs a lot, but even more than the music, I liked the easy way in which he connected with his audience tonight.
If you stand any chance of making your living as a singer-songwriter (particularly in a digital download age where so much of your content can be used without your control or permission), then you need to have a few things going for you…yes, you obviously need the songs and the music, but that is not enough. You also need to have that indefinable ability to be liked by an audience and also the personal tenacity just to keep going when success is not happening in the short term. Ben McKelvey has all of these qualities and I hope he reaches his dreams and goals. One thing is certain, just sharing the stage with Mike & The Mechanics on tour is an amazing opportunity to not only let a lot more people hear his music, but also to watch and learn stagecraft and presentation from one of the tightest bands around.
To read the Mike & The Mechanics review go to.
Mike and The Mechanics The Festival Theatre Edinburgh Sunday 19th March
Review by Tom King