Have you ever gone to a concert for a relatively new artist with a couple of big hits and watched an uninterested crowd twiddle their thumbs for the duration of the show until the end of the night when they finally get to hear the two songs they came for? Half-expecting to walk into a similar scenario on Monday night when Alex Clare headlined the Old National Centre’s cozy basement club Deluxe, it was pleasantly surprising to find an attentive audience who knew the words to all his music and squealed with delight between almost every song.
Clare’s UK roots were evident throughout the night nearly every time he spoke, making it terribly difficult to decipher his thick Brittish accent through the microphone. What was lost when he spoke, however, was regained when he sang. It’s a rare feat to hear a live performance sound identical to a recording, but Clare’s enactment of his 2012 album The Lateness Of the Hour was immaculate.
Backed by drums, bass, and keys, Clare’s live show was more engaging than a DJ set could ever be. It was also exceptionally more energetic than a singer/songwriter performance, though he was not too smug to return to his roots and play stripped down acoustic tracks mid-set. The crowd also saw the debut of a new song he’d not yet performed on the current tour; it’s title was not announced (at least not audibly), but I’d wager that it’s called “Under My Roof”.
The evening’s notable cover was Clare’s rendition of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” that managed to steer clear of dubstep womps, while simultaneously maintaining a deep, heavy bass line that’s become part of his signature sound. Upon its conclusion the keyboard player donned a keytar and moved to the front of the stage at Clare’s side in preparation for what would become the equilivent of the grand finale of a summer fireworks display.
“Treading Water” reenergized the crowd and got them moving around again; they even cheered in approval when the band fooled them with a false ending to the song. “Up All Night” followed as Clare and his band continued to strategically build the room’s commotion. Just when it seemed like it was finally time for “Too Close”, the stage flooded with red lights and Clare stormed off.
The band stayed put in their respective spots on stage and continued to draw out instrumentals for “Up All Night” until a rested Clare returned to perform the song that propelled him into stardom. If the recorded version of “Too Close” is enough to make you squint your eyes and scream the chorus every time you hear it, seeing and hearing him perform it live is enough to send chills down your spine.
It took little convincing from the audience to pull Clare and his keyboard player back on stage for a short and sweet encore. As if to answer his fans’ wish for one final song, Clare chose “I Won’t Let You Down” to end on a note of solace.
There’s something about the unique pairing of Clare’s astonishing vocal abilities against the rumbling hum of bass music that has enabled him to carve a niche for himself in the esteem of today’s pop music. It’s a “safe” way for the mainstream to dabble in electronic music while providing a welcomed change of pace for dubstep-loving bassheads. The formula works to ensure the broad appeal of his music remains steadfast- and it explains why no one in Monday night’s crowd showed up just to hear “Too Close” and twiddle their thumbs during everything else.
Photos by Phierce Photography