NEWS: Benjamin Clementine @ Sage Gateshead | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The story of Benjamin Clementine seems more akin to a Hollywood screen play than that of a man who grew up in the shadow of the North Circular. At six years of age he stole a piano from a girl at school and fell in love with it instantly, fast forward 13 years and you’d have found Clementine on the streets of Paris, sleeping rough. Out of sheer desperation and an enlightening visit to Sacré Coeur he tossed his Kangol cap on the ground and began to sing. This was the beginning of a man mastering his craft as one of the most unique songwriters of the last 20 years. After building a name playing wherever he could he was offered a slot on Jools Holland, one short week later he was Spotify’s most shared act and signed to a major. This year saw him nominated for the Mercury Prize and if the panel choses to be less reserved than in previous years he could well walk away the winner.

The story is a remarkable one, but by far the most amazing thing is that despite this fairytale biography the music is still the most remarkable thing about Benjamin Clementine. There is the inescapable Antony & the Johnsons comparison to be made; a huge, booming, formidable voice paints dark landscapes across arpeggiated piano. He has in the past been described as ‘what Nina Simone would sound like as a man’ and although that suggests much of the spiritual similarities, the truth is trying to describe Clementine’s incredible talent in words is like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with a potato stamp. There’s a delicate and viciously potent strength about Clementine. He is hard to, and should not be, ignored.

Benjamin Clementine plays Sage Gateshead on Wednesday 2nd December.

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