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The Clientele Ends Tour in Style at The Bowery Ballroom

March 24th, 2010

The Clientele – The Bowery Ballroom – March 23, 2010

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“For me, every day is Monday,” said the Clientele frontman Alasdair MacLean in pure British deadpan near the start of Tuesday night’s Bowery Ballroom show. You can see how that’s true, with a sleepy “don’t wanna get out of bed” whisper permeating the songs during a stunning 80-minute set. There can be a lot of music in a whisper, though, and the Clientele seemed to explore it all with sophistication and an understated groove that wasn’t lost on the crowd. The band played in contrasts and complements with James Hornsey’s bass melodically rising and falling with MacLean’s voice and Mark Keen’s cymbals accenting and sharpening his guitar work. Mel Draisy rounded out the quartet with impressive fill-in-the-blanks work on keyboards, violins and xylophone—each bit found its spot and interlocked in near pop perfection. The overall effect was powerfully hypnotic.

Things picked up momentum a couple of songs in with an ecstatic “Never Anyone but You.” Bob Parins, of Vetiver, joined the quartet for enhanced versions of “These Days Nothing but Sunshine” and “I Wonder Who We Are.” The steel guitar and Draisy’s violin meshed with MacLean’s unique finger-plucked chords to create some awe-inspiring music. With plenty of oohs, la las and bop bops accented by Keen’s steady, Ringo-esque drumming, the set was Brit-pop left out in the sun, turned soft, mushy and slightly narcotic.

Later, the Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson joined in on trumpet for a tune that started in the same, blissful sway but stretched out from the thee-minute shackles into a blistering jam. It seemed to go on forever and continually build in strength in a raging, somewhat surprising departure from the rest of the set. Olson stayed on for “Harvest Time,” which was equally powerful, but comfortably back to the subtle pop. For the encore, the Clientele dedicated two songs, the first, a Big Star cover to Alex Chilton, and the second, “Bookshop Casanova,” cheekily, to the crowd before ending with a ramped-down soporific to put an impressive end to a fantastic show and a long tour. —A. Stein