Clean Bandit – Alexandra Palace

Why this gig?

Every so often I like to see something that’s a bit outside of my usual tastes. I saw Clean Bandit on one of the BBC’s Glastonbury shows last year and I thought they sounded pretty good. I’ve enjoyed listening to their album a few times, so I thought I’d give it a go.

In retrospect I think I was slightly confused. I think it was London Grammar who I saw on the Glastonbury show and thought I should really go and see them at some point.

Support

We get two support acts. MNEK is so far outside of my usual listening that I just can’t understand what people see it him. Wikipedia tells me he has had hit records and there were certainly people there who knew some of his songs. I really didn’t enjoy his set.

Then there’s Jess Glynne. I have, at least, heard of her. I even vaguely recognised a couple of songs. Unlike with MNEK, I can understand why people like her music. But it’s really not for me.

Headline

I’m a little worried even before Clean Bandit come on. I had the impression that Clean Bandit were on the more cerebral end of the dance music spectrum. They do, after all, include classical elements in some of their songs. But this audience is a long way from cerebral. The Jaegermeister stand is doing great business and by the time the band come on stage just after 9:30pm, a large proportion of the audience is rather drunk. I feel a bit like I’m in a night club in Romford. And that’s not somewhere I’d enjoy being.

If you look at the track listing on Clean Bandit’s album, New Eyes, you’ll see that pretty much every track has a different guest vocalist. That’s hard to reproduce on tour, so most of the leads vocals are handled by Elizabeth Troy. There are a few guests though, but they aren’t introduced very clearly. I suppose that if I was more in touch with this scene then I’d know who they are.

But that’s indicative of a problem with the show. The band don’t seem very comfortable interacting with the audience. Attempts at chat between songs are few and rather stilted. Perhaps that’s not expected at dance shows, but I like a bit of rapport between band and audience.

As you’d expect from a band with only one album, they play pretty much all of it. And that means that a lot of the show feels a bit like treading water. There are a few big songs at the start and they build to an impressive climax at the end, but there are long stretches in the middle where there’s nothing very interesting going on.

It’s pretty short too. After less than an hour they’re playing things like “Mozart’s House” and “Extraordinary” which obviously mean that the show is reaching its end. Eventually, the main set stretches to about an hour and five minutes (that’s probably why they had two supports, I suppose). There’s a two-song encore, finishing with Jess Glynne joining them for “Rather Be” and we’re all finished in about an hour and twenty.

I’m glad that I went to the show. It’s good to listen to different stuff occasionally. I’m not sure that I’ll be rushing back to a dance music gig very soon though.

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