Winner of the Mercury Prize in 2015, Benjamin Clementine has had quite the career. Typically portrayed in a rags to riches narrative, Benjamin has truly shown he is one of the most exciting artists around today. Tonight, however, when he plays the Brighton Dome, following the release of I Tell A Fly, he not only exceeds all expectations and preconceptions of his sound, but has placed himself in an entirely new calibre of outstanding artists.
Seeing a stage littered with heavily pregnant mannequins is always an eye-catching way to start any show and, as Benjamin and his session band enter the stage dressed in boiler suits and barefooted, they immediately demonstrate the intensity of their sound. Benjamin’s vocals are divine, he has possibly the largest range of any artist I’ve come across all year and his control is beyond impeccable. The accompaniment from delicate piano notes allow his voice to beautifully flutter over the sound and amplify the meaning to each and every word he sings.
I would honestly refer to this show as more of an art installation than any typical musical performance, Benjamin’s piercing eyes scan the room and as the terrifically colossal ‘God Save The Jungle’ comes to a closure, he then leaves the room in an uncomfortable five minute silence as late audience members find their seats. It’s clear that Benjamin’s performance works both ways, we ask for a beautiful performance, he asks for the respect and quietness of the audience so he can do his best.
Charisma and eccentricities flow out of Benjamin like second nature, his soprano notes are other worldly whilst his lower tones vibrate the floor with their power, it’s impossible to believe that both sounds come from the same man! This being said, he knows his limits and during a 15 minute crowd interaction of ‘Condolence’, he allows the room to exceed his sound in a manner which is simply awe inspiring and captivates everything that music is all about. Crowd participation is definitely a key aspect of the performance allowing everything, from Benjamin and his group heading into the crowds during ‘By The Ports Of Europe’ chanting: “Porto bello, Porto bello” into the faces of individual audience members, to humorous back and forth conversations between song intervals covering anything incluing what people from Brighton are called to Benjamin’s stance on the current political climates.
The demand for an encore tonight is outstanding and leave’s the crowd in a standing ovation. Tracks such as ‘Jupiter’ and ‘London’ both make final a demonstration of Benjamin’s raw talent and brutally poetic lyricism. Benjamin’s ending speech explains how he feels that his pregnant mannequins represent the current times: how, whilst beautiful, they show no signs of love or compassion towards anything, there’s definitely a sense of mad logic behind his metaphor.
From start to finish tonight, Benjamin Clementine has put on the single best performance I’ve reviewed all year, even the best of bands seem to have at least one track that dips, but no such thing can be said for an evening with this artist. We currently live in an incredibly crazy world with few things being certain, that is except for the fact that Benjamin Clementine is one of the greatest artists to walk this planet at the moment. If you ever get an opportunity to witness Benjamin Clementine live, take it with open arms, as this is an evening which will make you reflect on your very existence, in the best ways possible.