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 Benjamin Clementine

(International Festival)

Hmm, where to begin. Sometimes there are reviews you don't want to write and this is one of them. We loved his album " At Least For Now" so when I heard he was appearing at the International festival I knew I wanted to see him ( he doesn't often perform live) and duly bought Priority Membership and managed to get front show seats. So, although we had a lot of good shows planned this week this was the one I was most eagerly anticipating.

 

Typically, having arrived quite early (see our review of Meow Meow's show yesterday) we were kept waiting until almost the start time before we were allowed into the auditorium. I was very excited about our seats until I saw a huge speaker directly in front of us, less than 2 feet away, but I ignored it hoping it wouldn't impact on our enjoyment.

 

We then settled down and watched a variety of sound technicians looking concerned on stage until finally there

was an announcement stating there would be a slight delay and the clock ticked ever onwards until they

apologised again and hoped the problem would shortly be resolved. Oddly, I was rather enjoying this expected

moment of tranquility (ignoring the frantic banging on stage) and I began to make progress on writing some

reviews. Suddenly (without any warning) we were all plunged into complete darkness and became aware of the

musicians gingerly making their way on stage.

 

Then the show began, after a forty five minute delay. Initially, Mr Clementine was gently playing his piano (as per

the CD) but then came the moment when the rest of the band joined in and my worst fears were realised. Not only

were we nearly blown out of our seats but it soon became clear that the speaker in front of us was connected to

the drums.

 

For the first 3 songs I literally had my fingers in my ears (which must have been an odd sight for Benjamin as we were within eye contact range). I gave myself a time limit for the sound level to balance before I moved back and tried to watch it from an alcove and by that time they either had improved the balance or my ears had acclimatised and I could stay in my seat but it was still loud.

 

At least now I could begin to concentrate on the music and hear songs I didn't know (presumably from the new album) mixed with some I did know. Despite the volume of noise when he song, Benjamin was a bit of a mumbler when he spoke to the audience, probably through nerves. However, he was determined to keep up a conversation, despite the fact that he had a microphone & the audience didn't and ignoring the fact that when he was talking to one person a cacophony of other people shouted out making it impossible for either party to communicate clearly. We shall gloss over the fact that a lot of the audience were drunk by now as the Festivals now actively encourage audiences to drink as much as possible. Although he clearly started these chats with the best of intentions, it quickly moved from endearing to annoying, especially as he continued it between most songs.

 

Then, suddenly, he announced this is my last song and although he did a one-song encore (after quite a long wait) the show was over about 9.45pm. You will tell from the above that I didn't enjoy the show at all, though I must admit people were standing and applauding all around us. Ignoring the delay and the sound level what I think disappointed me most was the fact that he can't have sung more than 9 songs in total, including an improvised ditto about Aberfeldy. Also, being so close I could see he looked quite terrified and oddly failed to namecheck his band at any time.

 

When I returned to our flat and had a good old moan we duly checked twitter to see what the overall response was. Although most people loved it there were a few dissenters, so I clearly wasn't alone in my thoughts. I think I am generally a positive who has been a regular concert-goer since the 1970s and this has to be one of my worst concert going experiences ever.

 

Sorry.

 

 

 Festival Theatre

 Thursday 10th August

 5.5/10

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