Thursday, January 10, 2008

the clientele @ the luminaire, 1/8/08

first, a disclaimer: were it not for the serious dearth of live music in my life (my last proper show was yeasayer), i would not have bothered going to see the clientele the other night. nothing against them personally, but their underwhelming tweed-rock isn't my thing in the slightest - yet the live scene in london nowadays is so dismally bare (the spice girls' epic marathon run at O2 is pretty much it) that the moment i saw the name of a band i even slightly recognized, i jumped on it (also, it only cost me a fiver).

the clientele are a london-based four-piece that play polished adult rock, and who have found a home on merge records in the us, where they are far more popular than they are in their native land. that being said, the luminaire was absolutely sold out for their first show on 2008, and well and truly packed long before they were set to go on. last year's god save the clientele certainly won them a wider audience, egged on by catchy little songs like "bookshop casanova," though, as i said, their style has always seemed rather too understated and, well, too old for me. much like alligator, the standard for adult rock (which has always sounded too slick and not quite original enough to catch my ear), the clientele too are overly polished and unremarkable, and, dare i say, rather boring. nonetheless, i approached their show with an open mind (and ears), knowing only "bookshop casanova" and "since k got over me," not expecting to be wowed, but neither to be disappointed.

unfortunately, it was the latter. a more disappointing three hours of live music have i rarely paid for, and i was completely flabbergasted by how strongly the crowd felt about the artists performing for them. by adult rock standards, i think we got an all-star lineup, from the left outsides to darren hayman (ex-frontman of john peel faves hefner), but as tearknee and i seemed the be the youngest in the room by about seven years, we were clearly not the target audience. the left outsides played harmless viola-inflected easy rock to the eager crowd that defied easy categorization, beyond their collective age. their slow, passive songs, a clear homage to the often bland jams of british bands of the 70s, suited a room full of tortoiseshell- bespectacled and elbow-patched lager drinkers, and practically put both of us to sleep.

we hoped darren hayman would jolt us out of our bland-rock coma, and the applause to greeted his arrival on stage, with only a wurlitzer and two bottles of beer for company, was definitely encouraging. hayman is best known for his work as the driving force of hefner, a storied "urban folk" band with a legion of devoted fans, of whom there seemed to be more than a few in the audience. i'm totally unfamiliar with hefner, and can't compare hayman-as-hefner with hayman-as-solo artist, but i've definitely come up with an opinion about hayman-as-solo: yawn. his piano melodies were incredibly simple, his stage presence a joke - the only partially engaging element of his songwriting were his lyrics, which varied between the trite (why hayman wants to live in elderly capital eastbourne) and the amusing (a little ditty about the national canine defense league). ultimately, however, sitting down and waiting for the clientele to come on was a more satisfying decision than watching the rest of hayman's set.


ah, the clientele. polished, understated, and not exactly riveting, the clientele opened with "since k got over me," the most recognizable song from their 2005 attention-getter, strange geometry. frontman alisdair maclean sings in a breathy tenor, his screwed-up face the only tell of the concentration put into his singing. multi-instrumentalist mel draisey was the most visually engaging member of the group, and that's only because she was the only one who bothered moving around. granted, the luminaire's stage isn't exactly spacious, but the clientele's stiffness, combined with their aural plainness, made them a not very fun band to see. kudos are definitely owed to the sound man, who sets the best levels i've ever heard in a live space - every note, thump, and tinkle (from draisey's xylophone) was clear as a bell. granted, that didn't make the clientele's sound much more engaging, but at least it wasn't an aural mess. they played a couple covers, of the monkees and television, the latter a band to whom the clientele owe no small debt, and from whom the clientele took some of their best ideas; on a few songs, and a few songs only, the clientele broke out of their leather armchair stupor and seriously almost rocked out, the volume and intensity building impressively, though their demeanor remained as stolid and straightfaced as ever. unsurprisingly (if you've listened to their records), the clientele's live performance was plain and unremarkable, an unrewarding experience that only their most devoted fans must enjoy.

1 comment:

alice said...

I wish I were there..
I love Darren Hayman!
Did you get to see his last video? It's kinda stupid but cute.