Review: Ben Marwood delivers folk fun in Camden

Reading singer-songwriter Ben Marwood returned to London to do what he does best – perform great shows the bring everyone together for a little while. 

Having released his latest record, and first new music since 2013, with Get Found in 2017, Ben Marwood took to the stage at The Monarch, one of Camden’s most iconic grassroots venue with support from Nick Parker and Helen Chambers.

Glastonbury-based Nick Parker opens the show to an already pretty packed venue. His music is singer-songwriter story-telling with a dash of tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Such as his wonderfully relatable and adorable track A Letter To My Human – which, you might have guessed it, was written from the perspective of his cat, or as Nick told us, the song was actually written by his cat. “Can’t say I agree, but I can’t go changing his lyrics.” he explains. We’re also getting a bit of a German lesson with Es Tut Mir Leid which is a wonderful story about British and German politeness. A few girls in the front are tasked with holding up the German parts of the lyrics so we could all sing along – fun AND educational, what more could you want from live music? For his last song, Departures, Ben Marwood joins Nick on stage to play the kazoo. Yes, you read that correctly, the kazoo.

As Helen Chambers takes the stage, we continue our journey of artists telling us tales. And it’s not the tales of knights and war that the word always slightly suggests. It’s everyday tales from the lives and wanderings of these talented musicians we have before us. It’s like going to a book reading but with music and dancing (and mostly, more fun stories). So Helen tells us about the fact that her daughter just blocked her on Whatsapp for simply saying no to something like staying out late, and how she’s reminded of the times when her kids were nice and that’s when she wrote Paper And Glue. Her track Veronica Pearl is a beautiful love song about her grandparents and times of war in the UK.  Last song Caravan takes us all off into a daydream of leaving it all behind and just living in a caravan, driving around.

Following a two year break from performing due to health reasons, Ben Marwood is now back and better than ever. Not only is he delivering stellar shows that remind us all why we love grassroots music but he will also be opening the mainstage at this year’s 2000 trees festival. Something that fans have been campaigning for for years by chanting “Marwood main stage” at every show, including his 2000 appearances. Which is something that is also shouted a lot during this performance at The Monarch to which Ben replies asking what they’ll be chanting now “Car park!” someone suggests from the back.  “Thanks for continuously shouting for me throughout the years!”.

Kicking off his set with Question Marks, taken from his 2008 release This Is Not What You Had Planned, Ben also admitts he hadn’t written a set list for the night so he’ll just play the songs he likes – fine with us, because Question Marks is swiftly followed by 2013’s existential-crisis-fighting anthem We’re No Longer 25. Safe Mode is another one of those tracks that reminds you there’s more to life than paying bills and that sometimes looking after yourself isn’t what your body needs but what your mind wants. It is also about a guy named Giles who keeps taking pictures of geese and posting them on Ben’s timeline, so there’s that.

“Do you want to hear a song about racists or murder?” Ben asks, and after a bit of back and forth the crowd and Ben agree, it’ll be both. Under Lock And Key being the murder part of the duo of songs. Written originally about the death of a relationship, Marwood tells the audience that he has since taken out the metaphor and now it’s just about murder.

For a cover of Shovels & Rope’s Lay Low, Ben invites Helen Chambers on stage for a duet, telling us that they have been having a game going to see who can get through the Ooh’s the longest without cracking up. To be fair, they both did very well, but didn’t quite make it through the song without a giggle. We’re all here to have fun, right?!

The so-called encore starts with another cover, this time with the enchanting The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service, the intro courtesy of Smash Mouth’s All Star also went down well because who doesn’t know the lyrics to that song! Why is it a “so-called” encore, because Ben had rightfully pointed out “Where can I really go?!”.

“Hugs are free, other things cost money – come see me at the merch table” Marwood notes before launching into the infectiously happy-sounding I Promise You That It Will Be Okay. With that and an invite to come see him hanging out at The Monarch for Frank Turner’s Lost Evenings Festival, the evening comes to a close at exactly eleven o’clock. An evening that reminds a dedicated crowd why they love Ben Marwood so much, and it sure reminded him that no matter what life throws at him, he will always a whole Camden pub full of adoring fans who will sing along to all his songs.