3/1 The Clientele @ The Mohawk

As the temperature dropped again, we couldn’t have asked for a better evening on which to enjoy The Clientele.  A little touch of fog, and the night would have been the perfect setting for their atmospheric chamber pop.  Joining the Brits on stage was Vetiver and Michael Kingcaid from What Made Milwaukee Famous. Follow the jump for more.

Michael Kingcaid and the Broken Bottle Casualties began the night, but they began it on precisely the right note.  While he may write clever pop numbers with his other band, he opened his set with a somber song or three, commenting that he came to depress us.  However, soft his opening tunes were, he brought out a much more powerful country-tinged rock to the ending of the set, rocking to and fro as his band banged away.  It was a pleasant beginning to the evening, and one that showed us Michael Kingcaid has much more to offer us.

We then were pleased to welcome San Francisco’s Vetiver to the stage.  Honestly, their songs on the latest Tight Knit, while great, seem much quieter in the personal setting.  Andy Cabic’s group had the crowd bouncing about throughout the set, mixing folk and country whilst bringing a bit of rock to it all.  The group also let us in on a new track that went untitled, but it looks like they’ve got another good album in their future.

As The Clientele set up, one couldn’t help but feel as if they were let in on some grand secret.  Such a talented group has long been ignored by the masses, outside of the older crowd that was there in support of the band (by the way, older crowds are better because it’s less of a social outing as opposed to fandom…little to no talking throughout the evening). Sadly, this may be the last we see of this band in America, so we had to enjoy it.

It’s hard to describe to non-fans precisely what the group sounds like.  The Clientele hold onto some Northern Soul sounds made famous by British groups like Felt or Belle and Sebastian.  Atop it all is Alasdair Macleans’ breathy vocals, which never seem to completely finish, always floating into the air.  Regardless, they’ve constructed a catalog of some of the most beautiful pop to come out in recent years.

Most of the set included numbers from God Save the Clientele and the recent Bonfires of the Heath.  “I Wonder Who We Are” was a perfect performance as Maclean belted out his “ba bada” chorus into the night.  Warm moments like “Bonfires of the Heath” definitely fit the setting, as the cold weather seemed to encapsulate the song.

More striking, for me at least, was the playing of Alasdair on guitar.  Sure, I’ve seen many people pick at their guitar with just their fingers, but no one seems nearly as talented as Maclean.  He switched styles, banged upon his guitar, and changed styles yet again, all while maintaining that crisp sound that definitely came off more vibrant in the live setting.  As they closed the night with “Is Anybody Going to San Antone” by the Texas Tornados, accompanied by tourmates, Vetiver, you really got the impression that the evening could get no higher.  And in fact, it couldn’t, as The Clientele left the stage, leaving us all with memories of a quiet band playing a pleasant set, if not remarkable, to a small group of loving fans and friends.

Our thanks to Christina Martinson for getting us on the list.

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