Arts & Entertainment

Alex Clare greets fans after great performance

Photo courtesy of Dan Medhurst

It was a cold, blistery night (even for Chicago) when fans began lining up at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) on Nov. 18. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know one of the first thoughts in my mind was “what the heck am I doing here, I’m going to freeze to death.” Luckily the line quickly started to shuffle into the venue and the people piled in. Once inside, any doubts I had were quickly squashed by Alex Clare. The British singer-songwriter whose music is influenced by electronic/dance and rock, quietly came onstage with his band and then delivered a loud and heart-pounding show to fans.

Clare, whose hit “Too Close” invaded radio waves back in 2012, delivered a thrilling Chicago show. While currently touring in support of his sophomore album Three Hearts, which dropped earlier this year, the setlist was a fairly even mix of songs from both Three Hearts and his debut album In the Lateness of the Hour (2011).

 

The show began at a moderate pace with “Never Let You Go” from Three Hearts. The recorded version of the song features a strong blend of drums, keyboard and trumpets. Unfortunately, since Clare’s band did not include a trumpeter at the live show, those sounds, along with many of the electronic sounds, were produced onstage by a DJ. Any instance where an instrument is replaced with a recording is of course disappointing, but at the same time there are limitations with a small traveling band. Either way, it wasn’t too much of a drawback.

Regardless, the band and Clare sounded great together. “Never Let You Go” is a not a bad song, but it did not do much to get the crowd amped up early on in the show. It is fairly upbeat and has a positive sound to it, but a song such as “Up All Night” from In the Lateness of the Hour would’ve received a better response to open up with due to its electrifying guitar riffs at the beginning of the song.

However, Clare’s drummer and keyboardist were phenomenal — especially the keyboardist, who had a setup of about four or five keyboards that he switched between throughout the set list. Each of the keyboards produced different sounds, so he would use a different one depending on the song.

Clare’s powerful voice shone through the band’s music most of the time, but every so often his voice was drowned out by his band whenever the music got too loud. This was definitely a drawback because Clare has a fantastic voice. During the peak moments of some of the songs when I wanted to hear his voice, all I heard was his band.

After “Never Let You Go,” Clare performed “Hummingbird,” also from his first album. It was then that the moderately sized crowd became noticeably more energized. This was most likely because the song is more electronic-based, featuring a heavy bass line with some keyboards on top, which seemed to make the crowd want to dance.

 

In the Lateness of the Hour garnered a lot more attention from critics due to its unique sound compared to Clare’s more recent release Three Hearts. Clare’s debut album was a strong blend of rock vocals with electronic music, whereas his new release has almost no electronic elements. The crowd responded more to songs from his first album because it was the one that made most fall in love with Clare’s music in the first place.

Three Hearts isn’t a bad album; it just sounds very different with its purely rock-based sound. The songs are filled with drums and guitar instead of synthesizers and dubstep. With that in mind, praise should be given to Clare. Even though the songs from his two albums sound very different, he and his band still managed to perform a cohesive and well-rounded show.

Though the DJ produced a lot of the electronic elements at the show, many of the electronic elements were also reproduced with live instruments. For example, the bassist performed many of the bass lines for the electronic songs. These had the same melody as the original songs, but the bass wasn’t as deep or pronounced as on the original songs.

Clare’s band replaced other electronic elements with guitar. This combined sound produced a cool vibe, especially during the songs “I Love You,” “Up All Night” and “Relax My Beloved,” all of which are from In the Lateness of the Hour. This remixed sound provided a new take on the songs while still remaining true to the style of the original studio recording.

For the encore, Clare performed “Too Close,” his biggest hit. Almost everyone in the crowd who was already a fan was looking forward to this song all night, and sure enough, he delivered big time.

From the second the song began, the crowd was hyped up. The dubstep elements got the concert-goers dancing, and Clare’s infectious vocals had many of the fans singing at the top of their lungs. “Too Close” was the best possible song to have chosen for the finale of an already great show.

 

The show ended after the encore. Clare quickly thanked the audience and made a fast exit to the side of the stage, which seemed a bit abrupt. The fans were still cheering, but he did not take any extra time to soak it in like most artists do at the end of a show.

It wasn’t until I was making my way out of the venue that I realized why he did so. Clare had rushed from the stage to the exit in order to greet every fan on their way out and wish them a good night. He was even willing to sign autographs and take pictures. To me, that is the mark of a true artist. Clare took the time to genuinely show his appreciation for his fans and to build a personal relationship with them.

After giving a top-notch performance filled with amazing musicianship and sincere kindness, Alex Clare gets my utmost respect and admiration, both for his music and his personality. Somebody would’ve had to have a really horrible day to walk out of The Metro that night with negative feelings. If anyone wasn’t already a fan, they sure became one after such an incredible show.

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