Benjamin Clementine at the Barbican
Poet and pianist Benjamin Clementine gives a beautifully raw, honest and intensely passionate performance at the Barbican, drawing upon his life experiences, which we learn about from songs like Cornerstone. Commencing each song with an unstudied instrumental, Clementine silences and enthrals the entire hall with his deep, soulful voice. It is incredibly impressive to find that, without any professional lessons or teaching, he has mastered the piano wholly and plays with natural ease, freely oscillating between keys, time signatures and tempo.
With a difficult adolescence spent homeless, busking on the streets of Paris, Clementine’s story is fascinating. We see this talented man as he was when began his career, sitting before us under a single spotlight in a long dark coat with no shirt and bare feet. The humble and genuine appearance gives us leave to focus on what holds the most importance: the music and its message. In accordance with this unaffected image and message, Clementine explains that, contrary to the saying “time is money”, he believes “time has no time for money”.
Composed moments of silence hold the audience in anticipation in between songs, and we learn that Clementine is a man of little words, not saying much other than “I hope you don’t find me weird” and “thank you”. He clearly has a good sense of humour and enjoys making the audience laugh. Every now and then we hear members of the audience calling out “thank you” and “London loves you” to which he frankly and amusingly replies “I hate London”.
Occasionally accompanied by a cellist, bassist and drummer, Clementine divulges his emotions through the music, which sounds so beautiful and powerful that it sings straight to the soul. The artist’s compositions are erratic with no rigidity of mainstream conventional song structure, making each song a captivating wonder to listen to. It has been realised that Clementine’s music is indefinable, unique and impossible to place under any one genre. Repetition of melody and lyrics is used often, which maintains an absorbed and meditative state, as well as building towards a vigorous and emotional climax.
By the end of the set, everyone is craving more and Clementine receives a tremendous standing ovation. Having already played four songs for the encore, a few members of the audience cry out in demand for Edmonton, which Clementine finally indulges before bringing proceedings to a triumphant close.
For further information about Benjamin Clementine and future events visit here.
Watch a live performance of Cornerstone here: