Benjamin Clementine at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
David Byrne’s Meltdown continues with the Friday night spotlight on Benjamin Clementine, a young musician who offers something magical in his expressive compositions, warmly blending his spinto tenor voice with the softly spoken word and delicately poised piano arrangements. Formerly from London, but finding his feet singing dans le métro parisien, this fresh voice has been hailed by the likes of Björk and Paul McCartney, and from this outstanding concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall it is easy to see why.
The audience are clearly assured by Clementine’s opening grace, as he acknowledges them in the most modest manner. His voice is soft, like a whisper: “Thank you…you are very respectful.” He sits omen-like on a high-standing perch, dressed in his signature long black coat, barefooted, slightly skewed, and with his fibrous fingers resting on the keys. An air of mist drifts in the limelight and once he begins to sing, very much possessing the presence of silence beforehand, it feels like it must to witness a resurrection. In a lofty sense, his performance becomes something surreal and special, as quoted by himself in The Standard : “I feel when I’m singing that I’m in a world that…I just feel like I’m somewhere.” It is this inexplicable, quite different and original feature, which stands out in the contemporary landscape of singer-songwriters – one comparison being the late Nina Simone.
Clementine performs all the tracks from his new album At Least For Now, in no particular order, but perhaps tailored to each moment. There is spontaneity in every detail of his music. From the murmured soliloquies to the operatic separations in Adios, to heartfelt chants and eloquent piano riffs in Cornerstone, the performance has nearly everything required of beauty. His drummer, whom he introduces as “one of a kind”, accompanies Clementine for a few tracks, whilst also playing a solo that is reminiscent in energy of Miles Teller’s performance in the film Whiplash. During this time, Clementine postures away from the audience in a statuesque shape (as seen on his album cover), a nice touch indeed.
The standing ovation is a moving compliment to such an emotive performance. Clementine is awash with modesty and recites one final song, the most poignant and celebrated of the night, I Won’t Complain. He reminds us why live music is great. Inspire, expand your mind, open your eyes and be enriched.
Photos: Morgana Uallander
For further information about Benjamin Clementine and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Cornerstone here: