Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Bejamin Clementine: The Church of St John-at-Hackney 7/12/2015

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Former vagrant vagabond Clementine brought a distinctive and exhilarating flavour with his stylish music (which critics have deigned an 'unspecified genre') pushing at the limits of our capacity for confessional songs wheeled out in all it's glory in a vast blacked out church,no doubt for extra melodrama! A towering tour de force ensued as the newly crowned Mercury Prize winner proved himself against mightily stiff opposition (namely Florence & The Machine for one!) and rightly so,as predicted by this jaded hack who happens to be writing this review....but enough about my crystal ball skills, onto the subject.

The first thing that strikes you about B.C. Is his demeanour dressed in a velvet collared trenchcoat and barefoot too,this troubled troubadour automatically makes you sit up and listen.If you could imagine the secret lovechild of 40's actor Peter Lorre and Grace Jones then you'd have an inkling of what he looks like.His expressive face goes from doleful to delightful depending on the mood of the song and what moods this guy can evoke are gargantuan.His critically acclaimed album 'At Least For Now' got a good airing and 'Cornerstone' garnered the biggest applause as he launched into this motoric 6/8 piledriver with fervour and intent.I'ts interesting to note that he first played this two years ago on the Jools Holland show,I guess it takes what it takes to make an impression on the british public but tonight was the perfect time to unleash himself on the nigh on two thousand people who had come out to see what all the fuss was about.

What they got was a raw and visceral performance aided at times, by an inventive drummer and an angular sounding cello on these slabs of stripped back belters as B.C.'s imperious tenor voice reverberated around the gothic setting of Hackney's finest church.Though he grumbled about the sound,to my ears it was just right and the location added even more depth to his dense yet edifying material.

The tough busking days in Paris have paid off,his dues have been wiped clean and the angst ridden gallic influence on the music is self explanitory,suffice to say it's intelligent and imaginative,take for instance the glorious chorus of 'London' sung with a mild cockney voice, 'Landon,Landon,Landon is calling you'.The combination of posh,slang and spoken voice wrapped up in his distinctive throaty sound gives him that exotic edge and tonight he entranced quite a few of the hordes fixed on his every word,even if they can't see him.

The hymnal 'Edmonton' was a particular highlight with his trademark sudden ending particularly good (no pondering on this end!) His craftmenship and deft piano playing may define him as does his brilliantly astute colouring and mood enhancing songs.It's also,objectively odd,but done with such conviction that the audience soon found it to be natural,no wonder there was mayhem at the end forcing the reticent star, who thought he'd delivered enough of his onerous workload, on for an encore. Lugubrious til the last Clementine did not disappoint,the pompadoured balladeer made a huge impact and kept up with peoples' expectations and to my mind worthy of huge admiration.
Words Emrys Baird

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