ben pryer

Ben Pryer

The Troubadour Club, London – 15th January 2013

There's few venues in London with the history and feel of the Troubadour Club in the Old Brompton Road. One of the last of the surviving coffee shops which sprang up in the early 1950s and rapidly became the chosen hang-outs for the city's teenagers, its musical pedigree is faultless. This was the very centre of the great British folk revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing host to such legends as Davey Graham, Martin Carthy and Sandy Denny, with Sonja Kristina organising its club nights. It was here Alexis Korner discovered rising drummer Charlie Watts and recruited him into Blues Incorporated. And it was the Troubadour that hosted gigs by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix (... and not forgetting Morrissey last year.)

The Troubadour is now home to a thriving restaurant on the ground floor, with its intimate venue (capacity 120) located beneath ground where it continues to attract both audiences and aspiring new talent. It is somehow fitting the club is sited between Earls Court and the massive Victorian Brompton Cemetery; fame or obscurity beckon all who play here ... and not just anybody does. The venue is selective: all acts must be writers of their own material, all must have the potential to go on to greater things, all must be entertainers.

We first spied Petworth boy Ben Pryer crashing out Undertones covers as a thirteen-year-old in the schoolboy group Delirium. Singing and playing guitar, it was clear the boy had talent, far from appalling taste, and an easiness on stage you simply cannot learn. Four years down the line and he steps up on stage at the Troubadour with his acoustic guitar and burns his way through eight numbers as if he doesn't have a care in the world. Most of these songs he has written in the last month, some aimed directly at this particular audience with a decided pop feel to them and a melodic assurance that makes them comfortable to assimilate and encourages participation. His supporters in the audience certainly don't need much encouragement to join in, the set ending in a mass singalong.

It's a little bit frightening these days to see an artist at this stage of his development. Ben has a really good singing voice. Really good. He writes songs for fun and has been playing the guitar almost as long as he can walk. He listens to Biffy Clyro and the Arctic Monkeys yet is completely easy with writing poppier numbers to get himself noticed. Ultimately, he says he just wants to look people in the eye and entertain them. That's no bad thing ... David Bowie felt the same before he grew into himself, and that took him half a lifetime. Yet Ben may well be approaching a crossroads. He certainly has the ability and the looks to go down the path of light entertainment and television talent shows. He expresses a preference not to, but hasn't completely ruled it out, and how hard must it be for a teenager to resist the lure of instant recognition?

Yet, he also has the talent to carve out his own path and if the dice fall right perhaps he will be the next one to follow in the footsteps of Jake Bugg, cutting across the musical divides to sweep all before him. There's not a shadow of a doubt he has the talent to succeed, and you may well be hearing a lot more about him in the years to come. An EP has been recorded, mainly for promotional rather than commerical value, but Ben will be back in the studio soon before going off to play more live dates around the country. We will follow his progress with interest ... and look forward to the Delirium Reunion World Tour.

To hear Ben in action, listen to 'Backfire' at
ben pryer at the troubadour

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