Catching a band at the beginning of a tour, when they’ve got a new album and they’re debuting songs onstage, one can often sense the freshness the group brings to the material. The day before this gig, London-based guitar pop band the Clientele had released the sublime God Save the Clientele, a lush collection that brings to mind the melodic craft of bands like Love and The Beatles. They’d been in the States less than a week and were embarking on a month-long, coast-to-coast trip.
What’s all the noise about? The Clientele forge ahead through sound problems at the Satellite Ballroom.
|Listen to Bookshop Casanova by the Clientele, found on their recent release, God Save the Clientele:
Richmond folk outfit Great White Jenkins opened and were followed by New York’s Ladybug Transistor, a band that, like the Clientele, look to the late ’60s for inspiration, albeit less successfully. The Clientele took the stage as a quartet—singer, guitarist, and songwriter Alasdair MacLean backed by bass and drums and augmented by violinist and keyboardist Mel Draisey. As they launched into “Here Comes the Phantom,” the first track from their latest, it was impressive how well they carried off the song live. MacLean ably transposed to guitar the song’s bouncy piano line, which is reminiscent of the opening from “Daydream Believer,” and his voice sounded fantastic.
But there’s also a downside to catching a band at the beginning of a tour. Though the song selection was ace and performances were good, a short blast of static would periodically come from nowhere (a faulty cord on Draisey’s violin, I was later told). MacLean apologized about sound problems, saying that this was “one of those nights when everything goes wrong, but we’re going to try and make it right.” An hour into the set, as the band played its early single “I Had to Say This,” the static kicked in and wouldn’t leave, overwhelming the audience with a piercing din out of some avant-garde industrial nightmare. The Clientele left the stage, the noise was eventually quieted, and the patient and appreciative audience was able to coax them back for an encore. The band maintained their good humor, as MacLean joked that the ghost of Lou Reed’s noise opus Metal Machine Music was in the house. A quick run through the Television Personalities’ ’80s nugget, “Picture of Dorian Grey,” and the Clientele called it a night, hoping, perhaps, for better luck in the next town.