Alex Clare, Scala, London
Monday 18 June 2012
When the most lauded female artist in the world proclaims your album to be a favourite, it is time to take note. Alex Clare is back and a sold-out Scala now gets to see why Adele is such a fan.
Clare's musical jaunt has been anything but equable. Early critical acclaim preceded stasis, when his record label effectively jettisoned him after poor sales. The singer's career beacon was finally lit by, ironically, the unlikeliest of internet heroes. So many fledgling performers garner online buzz through YouTube and social network grapevines, but it was a Microsoft Internet Explorer ad that gave Clare's "Too Close" its boost.
Clare was once a trainee chef, and one wonders if his food was as experimental as his sound: essentially soul, infused with dubstep, funk and jungle. He enters as an immediate antithetical lead, wearing a flat cap and sporting quite magnificent facial hair. But then he sings, and what a voice he has.
Reminiscent of Conner Reeves, his range is impressive and it takes rampant percussion to match its fervour. After an intense opening, a shy Clare finally opens his eyes and unwinds, casting a massive smile to his audience during "Whispering". By the time he engages in "Hands Are Clever" his ebullience is contagious.
Starting an acoustic interlude, Clare adds his name to a list including Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash with an incongruous cover of "Goodnight Irene". A quiet acoustic song it highlights Clare's charisma that amplifies throughout the night. His songs are laden with a particular cathartic honesty, making him an affable lead.
After the calm come two cracking versions of the songs that upped his American profile. "Up All Night" is the first, prompting absolute delirium with its catchy D'n'B-laced chorus. Clare then begins his goodbye, reducing the crowd to nodding dogs, rocked by the earth-shaking bass vibrations of "Too Close". Finally, he encores with just piano and vocals for "I Won't Let You Down". Hopefully, this time around, that will also be the mantra of the record label, because Alex Clare deserves recognition as a major talent.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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