Clientele @ The Black Cat, Washington DC
Feb. 23 2010
Despite compiling one of the most consistently rewarding 1960s pop-inspired discographies of the last decade, four-piece the Clientele have failed to garner the following that they deserve, neither statewide nor in their native England. This lack of attention is apparent both in recent band comments about getting out of music and in the showing at their Black Cat show this past Tuesday. Showing up halfway through Devandra Banhart-collaborating Vetiver's bizarre folk-twang opening, I was able to easily assume a position two rows from the stage before the Clientele had appeared on stage.
Following their first song, an awkward and prolonged exchange between lead Alasdair MacLean and an audience member complaining about their reverb-heavy sound set the tone for the rest of the show. Less than halfway through the set and after several attempts at very English humor that missed its mark with the audience, MacLean warily commented that "the banter isn't working tonight." From then on, though, the show took off, with the band playing song into song and MacLean showing jam-band chops that one might not expect from listening to his generally contented guitar.
The show peaked during its encore, with traditional closer "Bookshop Casanova" eschewed for "Bicycles." The band then briefly conferenced before launching into "Joseph Cornell," a less often played single from the Clientele's debut Suburban Light demanded by a small but very vocal minority in the audience. With newly-added multi-intermentalist Mel Draisey adding a welcome tamboruine to the song's oringally sublime mix, it was an appropriately calm ending to the set. It is such innovations that a new member can bring to an established sound, and such accomplishments that would make it such a shame for the Clientele to not continue into the next decade. Given the appreciation they are shown, though, one can hardly blame them.
-- Jake Sticka
Host, "Don't You Wish We Were NPR," Mondays 8-10 AM on WGTB