Thursday night at Kilburn's Luminaire served as the launch party for London band The Clientele's latest release, Bonfires On The Heath. When attending the band's last album launch party, vocalist Alasdair Maclean commented to the half empty cavernous space, that the same amount of people showed for their previous release party. This time round, the amount of people remained the same but the venue is a lot smaller. It had the effect of making the band look bigger in the same way that eating food off of a smaller plate is meant to make one feel full up.
The showcase was, thus, very much a case of preaching to the converted. Taking to the stage, in an understated fashion and appearance, the band played a set mostly consisting of tracks from the new record. The 2009 version of The Clientele feature a slimmed down, and less foppish Maclean, the ever stylish and swoon-some Mel Draisey on keys, and the rest of the band resembling the look and attitude of groovy parents.
The Clientele are a real musos band, with live extended workouts of tracks edging dangerously close to prog territory. However, the band manage to stay just about the right side of this. The wig-outs and guitar solos are met with both encouraged head nodding and pained expressions from the audience. One of the evening's particular highlights was 'My Own Face In The Trees', which Maclean disdainfully referred to as being described as the band's "imaginative peak" by a rather unimaginative journalist. In a live setting, the track is totally washed in Felt 'Forever Breathes The Lonely Word'-era keyboards. Derivative it may be, but the effect is breathtaking.
The band finished with a two song encore featuring a rather poignant take on 'Losing Haringey', featuring a star turn by Lupe from Amor de Dias, reading the vocals from a crumpled collection of papers. All in all, not the band's finest performance but enough to remind us that they are still a potent and underrated force.
Catch The Clientele next live and acoustic at The Lexington's Hangover Lounge on December 6.
Words by Nick Levine, photo by encosion.