Accompanied by gifted accordeonist and pianist Amir Swaab and equally talented bassist Egon Kracht, Houweling set foot on an intimate and familiar stage. In his old hometown of Alphen aan den Rijn in the western part of the Netherlands, he showcased new songs and old songs made anew.
It is nearly impossible to accurately describe the genre of music Ruud Houweling would belong to because he's always operating slightly off the beaten tracks. He's not rock, he's not pop, he's not alternative, he's not blues, he's not jazz, he's not folk, yet he is all those things. Those of you familiar with the 'hub-and-spoke model' will understand me when I say that Ruud is the hub and all these different (sub)genres are the spokes. Where many artists are persuaded to move more towards the middle of the road, Ruud Houweling remains true to himself and his songs and operates just on the side of the road. It has garnered an impressive amount of critical acclaim but only a mild general popularity.
However, now that the chapter of Cloudmachine has come to an end, Houweling experiences much more freedom to express himself in his songs. Being one of the better songwriters of this generation, Houweling has the incredible ability to write about themes and experiences that we can all connect to without resorting to tried metaphors and cheesy clichés. He draws from real life and isn't afraid to impose deep questions or genuine emotions on the listener. And in all that he can make you forget you are listening to a song. Great songwriters are able to write songs that take you somewhere and instead of listening to a song you'll start experiencing it.
Right off the bat, Ruud Houweling managed to create that magic. The beautiful imagery in Erasing Mountains set the stage early and weaving through his repertoire of new songs and old, Houweling entertained an attentive crowd for over an hour. Some of the Cloudmachine songs he played were vastly different from the versions originally released, Sirens' Song and Grace chief among them. Even in adapted arrangements the songs held up beautifully. It was a testament to the strength of Houweling's songwriting capabilities. And with his expressive and intriguing charisma and performance he was able to draw in the listeners effortlessly.
While there is still a road ahead of him where he will finetune his identity as a solo artist, Houweling has the ambition and the freedom to become an adventurer and explorer of his own work and bring out the best in his songs, as well as add many new gems to his already impressive catalogue. Had you been there, you could only have agreed with me that exciting times are ahead for Ruud Houweling.