The Clientele charm the Cedar with "songs about wickermen in the countryside"

Categories: Concert Review
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Last night, the Clientele played to an intimate, respectfully quiet audience at the Cedar. Everyone was seated throughout the duration of the show, a fact that may in part have masked a less-than-capacity turnout but which nonetheless proved well-suited to the band's performance. Regaling the crowd between songs with charmingly understated banter, Alasdair MacLean and the rest of the London four-piece put on a quiet, subtle show that made for a relaxing and thoroughly entertaining evening.

Opening their set with an Alex Chilton song, the Clientele then played "Since K Got Over Me" from the Strange Geometry album, where Mel Draisey switched between violin and glockenspiel. Then, after "getting the old ones out of the way," they played a number of songs from their most recent album, beginning with the title track, "Bonfires on the Heath."

While MacLean led the way strumming his Rickenbacker, bassist James Hornsey locked in on the singer's leads, adding subtle shading as he slinked around them. Draisey continued to mix things up, occasionally in lockstep with MacLean on keyboards as well as singing harmonies, while Mark Keen's drumming was almost exclusively a matter of accenting with quiet brushes and flutters of his kit.

To the most part, the band's music was smoldering and lethargic, its bleary-eyed melodies creating a mesmerizing haze that felt capable of drifting on endlessly like a lazy river. This style was so effective that when they opted to pick things up with "I Wonder Who We Are," the up-tempo playing felt out of place and almost artificial as much the typical eccentricities of the music were lost. However, late in the show things were allowed to boil over on an extended jam, and the slow manner in which the build-up unfurled proved one of the most enthralling moments of the night.

Rounding off the set with "Baby Sleep" from God Save the Clientele, the band kept things quiet and dreamy once more as they returned for a two-song encore that included "I Know I'll See Your Face."

Fellow Brits Field Music were openers on Monday. Like MacLean, the quartet also made a point of chatting frequently with the audience, and did so rather cheekily, usually pointing out their inability to make a transition between songs without taking an extended break.

With brothers David and Peter Brewis trading back and forth between lead guitar and drums and sharing the vocals, the breaks were perhaps not surprising, but the band put on a good show. Their phased out, trebly guitars and loping basslines recalled a number of late-'70s postpunk bands and was a lively counterbalance to the headliners that helped start the night off on a good note.


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