Concert Review: The Clientele

Concert Review: The Clientele

Fall is the perfect season for a Clientele concert.

Fall is the perfect season for a Clientele concert. The London-based band’s music is lush and autumnal, as if lead singer Alasdair MacLean permanently resides on the idyllic village green the Kinks once sang about. Though tinges of psychedelica colors the Clientele’s music, there is something bucolic about their sound, perfect music for a Sunday drive among rolling farmland and through small towns untouched by box stores and modern blight.

It has been about seven years since the Clientele last played Portland, and the sold-out crowd murmured in excited anticipation as the band, showcasing new album Music for the Age of Miracles, waited to take the stage. Appearing now as a three-piece, MacLean handled the jangly lead on his guitar while bassist James Hornsey and drummer Mark Keen cemented the rhythm section.

In many ways, a Clientele concert circa 2017 seemed unlikely. Back in 2011, the band announced they would be a taking an indefinite hiatus as MacLean focused on other projects. The Clientele did some one-off shows and released an EP, but the appearance of Music for the Age of Miracles this year was a pleasant surprise for fans. The band didn’t tinker much with the formula, but for some groups a steady progression is better than mucking around too much.

The Clientele is one of the best-reviewed indie rock bands, yet their sound hasn’t changed much since they appeared fully formed nearly 20 years ago. Rather than begin with new material, MacLean and company reached back to “Since K Got Over Me” from 2005’s Strange Geometry, much to the delight of some fans.

The setlist featured songs from many of the band’s past albums, leaving God Save the Clientele and Bonfires on the Heath more or less untouched. When I interviewed the band many years ago here in Portland, they expressed frustration with being so well-reviewed, yet unable to break into the next level of stardom. Still on the Merge, the Clientele must be content with selling out clubs. Otherwise, why would they keep at it?

As he ages, MacLean looks and sounds more and more like Robyn Hitchcock. His picking was immaculate, although he occasionally missed a note or two during the solos. However, a solo that referenced Television’s “Marquee Moon” was spot-on.

My only complaint was the show ended much too soon. With a large back catalog to draw upon, the Clientele could have played longer than 90 minutes. However, if 90 minutes is all we get of live Clientele a few times per decade, it’s better than nothing. Hopefully the band will return again soon on a day when the skies are heavy and gray, dead leaves resting on the pavement.

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