TNAG's Ben Montague Plays London's Royal Albert Hall
It is a very strange day when you get a call from Teenage Cancer Trust asking if you would like to come and perform at the Royal Albert Hall.
Sat in the office at TNAG HQ talking guitars with Michael and Richard, when my email goes ‘ping’ and up pops the title: 'Ben Montague / Albert Hall / Support'. After a few double blinks I went silent and opened up the email. To my delight Teenage Cancer Trust and Simply Red had become fans of my new single We Start Over (BBC Radio 2 Record of the Week) and got in touch to ask if I was available to play at London's Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 21st April. I don’t think my fingers could type any faster with the reply ‘YES!’. Not sure I played it cool enough!
As a child I grew up listening to my father's albums - Eric Clapton, Cream, The Who, The Beatles etc. All of which have performed at this iconic venue. In fact, my first ever (proper) gig was aged 9 years old with my father and older brother seeing Eric Clapton on his 'Journeyman' Tour in 1989 at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was here that I first fell in love with the venue. Its beautiful architecture, stunningly high ceilings, The 'Moulin Rouge' dark red decor and, of course, the musical history!
I have been extremely fortunate in my musical journey to play some wonderful London venues such as The O2 Arena, Hammersmith Apollo and Shepherd's Bush Empire, but never been lucky enough to grace the boards of the golden goose, the Royal Albert Hall...until now.
I decided to take a full band for this performance:
My pride and joy and workhorse guitar is my Froggy Bottom D14 in Adirondack Spruce with Indian Rosewood back and sides, fitted with an LR Baggs M80 soundhole pick up. My dear friend and colleague Michael Watts helped me spec out the guitar back in 2014 and I have been gigging with it ever since!
For what I do on stage and in the studio my Froggy is quite literally the perfect all rounder. It's fabulous for the more percussive rhythm tracks I write and yet does not lose any tone or volume when handling the more delicate fingerstyle songs. In my opinion the Froggy Bottom D14 is one of the best dreadnoughts in the world.
I also used an Avian Songbird Rosewood with Bevel for a couple of songs in the set for some of the more rootsy pop stuff I play. I played a few small gigs with my Avian last year, but this was the first time I had taken her on stage through a big PA. The Songbird is again a fantastic all rounder. Great for the slightly harder hitting rhythm stuff and yet keeps all the volume and subtly you need on the more delicate slower fingerstyle songs I write.
On arrival we were greeted by the Teenage Cancer Trust team, given our AAA passes and shown where to load into the venue. As you can imagine, this was not your typical pub load in bay and I'm not sure they were used to bands arriving in a convoy of cars.
The RAH sound team were an absolute delight to work with and helped us set up and sound check in no time. Walking on to that stage for sound check was a little like being in a dream…There she was in all her glory the Royal Albert Hall.
After sound check, I was very kindly asked by Teenage Cancer Trust to come back stage to meet some of the wonderful teenagers for whom the charity is there for. We got to hang out, chatted about the charity and of course music. Myself and the band (and TNAG’s Richard) had a huge amount of fun!
On arriving at my dressing room I was greeted by an envelope with my name on it and inside was a letter from one of my all time heroes, Mr Roger Daltry, CBE.
There was just time for a quick dinner, a quick restring of the guitars and then at 8pm, to the stage we all go!
The performance went by so quickly I can hardly remember it. Almost feels like a dream if I am totally honest. My band were incredible and my Froggy and my Avian did an outstanding job and stood up to the challenge of a big stage performance.
We here at The North American Guitar feel very lucky to able to do what we do. We are a small company run by musicians that truly love the guitar and everything to do with the guitar. To be given the opportunity to put these incredible instruments through their paces at any gig, let alone display them on the coveted Royal Albert Hall stage, is an honour.
All in all one of the best nights of my life.
Special thanks to Teenage Cancer Trust, The Royal Albert Hall and Simply Red for all your help and the opportunity to perform my dream gig.
I would be lying if I didn’t say the eight year old me up in the balcony back in 1989 watching Mr Clapton sing out “pretending…” had a whale of a time and left smiling from ear to ear!