Benjamin Clementine at Somerset House
From Edmonton, North London to the streets of Paris to worldwide fame, musician and poet Benjamin Clementine is a force to be reckoned with. This extraordinary artist’s ethereal, passionate otherworldly tenor voice – sometimes channelling angels – is unique, beautiful and sublime, his lyrics deeply philosophical, his style a kind of theatrical conceptual art.
At the lovely outdoor arena at Somerset House, Clementine was luminous. Supported by a superb orchestra of violins, cellos and one amazing drummer, his performance was riveting, with soulful, romantic, almost operatic vocals and lovely quasi-classical piano played in perfect accompaniment.
Clementine opened with bluesy St-Clementine-on-Tea-and-Croissants (in reference to his dual British/French influences), followed by the beautiful London and Condolence (about his rise from poverty), including a compelling cello solo; the singers’s fierce piano renditions reminded somewhat of Rachmaninoff.
Often chatting quite casually with the audience, Clementine exhibited witty eccentricity and humour. When a viewer cried “We love you!” he responded: “I hate you… really I hate you…no I love you”. Rambling on a bit and speaking about expensive art, he asked “Do you think art should be expensive or not? How much was your ticket?”.
An impromptu song about Brexit followed – “Don’t worry about it, it’s not on the set list”, he joked: “To leave or not to leave, to stay or not to stay…I love you England…a black British boy…just before we went our separate ways…how did we get here?”.
Cornerstone, with lovely piano and passionate vocals, was emotional, soulful and sublime: “I am alone in a box of stone…”; Nemesis and Then I Heard a Bachelor’s Cry, powerful pieces with piano and strong orchestral accompaniment and cello solo – an ethereal sound, intense, riveting, in places surreal, and recalling Romantic classical music. Sometimes compared with Nina Simone, Clementine’s vocal ranged from rich and strong to unconventional, whimsical departures into otherworldly falsetto refrains.
Benjamin Clementine once stated about his work: “I am an expressionist; I sing what I say, I say what I feel and I feel what I play by honesty and none other than honesty.” His performance at Somerset House was pure, remarkable honesty. As with many artists, you have to see Clementine live to fully appreciate his brilliance and magnetism. He is truly an exceptional talent.
Photos: Emma Dean
For further information about Benjamin Clementine and future events visit here.
Watch the video for St-Clementine-On-Tea-And-Croissants here: