Benjamin Clementine Review

It’s strange how you come to love the things you love; and stranger still is how protective you become of something you hold terribly, terribly dear.

Benjamin, I first noticed you on TV, you caught me the second I saw you. Your songs spoke of more than pain and love and loss and love again; breaking tired conscripts and song structure, you built something new, captivating me in a way I’d never even thought existed before and you, left, me, wanting, more.

I make no secret of buying my tickets for tonight. I also make no secret that I’m a lucky man who gets guest invites to see more music that any man should but tonight I wanted to be there in your audience, on your homecoming and see you, in the flesh, brought real. And do you know what? Tonight I felt embarrassed Benjamin. I felt we let you down.

You were brilliant, you were humble, you were everything I wanted you to be. You spoke directly to me; songs brought to life better than they ever are on your album. You wore your pain, your hopes, your fears for all of us; looping vocals on a beguiling range, musicality spilling out of your piano and your soul, beating heart on your sleeve. And If I’m honest, I realise this is a transitional period between coming into public consciousness and all of us falling head over heels in love with you, So maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t feel so disappointed.

I know that everyone here tonight bought their ticket before you won the Mercury Prize and so should have know better. I know you struggled with the overwhelmingness of it all, and that touched every one of us, but tonight we weren’t the fans you deserved but I truly promise you’re going to get so much more from your audience in the future. Hand on heart, we’re going to be singing every word back at you, we’re going to be living and reliving every pain in your sorrow, we’re going to be walking with you through Edmonton, Paris & London and in return you’ll be our song, voice and soul. We just weren’t there in force tonight. And I just so wanted it to be tonight.

There is one thing being a fan of exciting British music, hanging on the coattails of what people say we should be listening to or what is ‘hot for 2016’ is but there is another type a fan reserved especially for you. Tonight we were fan type ‘A’, one that feels like they should be seen to be there rather than one that wants, desperately wants, to ‘be’ there. I, however, am that other fan Benjamin and I will follow you.

I don’t know what the future holds but I really want to be in your company again next year and the one the after that and the one after that and I promise it’s not just me that’s going to love you for so very long. We just need a little time to find strength in number, our own voice and a way to show you our, love, back.

Thank you for a great night. It’s without doubt some of the best in live music I’ve ever seen and heard.  I simply cannot wait to share more of it with likeminded people; reciprocating our understating of your art and showing a willingness to be the audience you truly deserve. We’re coming Benjamin. I just hope that when we arrive, we’re better and you simply remain the same.

Tobin James

Relentless Kerrang Awards 2015

In an awards show with no actual musical performances, Marilyn Manson still managed to steal the show.  The headline from the night has to be not his Lifetime Achievement award but that he actually arrived in person to collect his gong. Such a presence instantly dwarfed the rest of the rock great and good that filled the Troxy for yesterday’s Relentless Kerrang Awards. Even reducing Alice Cooper’s appearance to collect his Legend award to that of a cameo role.


This black carpet event tied with a Zombie theme was certainly a resounding success; Relentless cocktails and un-dead bar staff made for a spectacular evening but it’s the attention to the small details that make you realise you’re somewhere special. Zombie hands leap out and grab you from the scenery (presumably from actors hidden behind the scenes), and smoke machines billow out scary Silent Hill mists giving everyone the Heavy Metal chills.


Alcohol ran free and everyone was raising a charged glass to the winners, with Bring Me The Horizon getting all the plaudits they deserved for their Best British Band award. I should imagine both their table and Royal Blood’s (Best British Newcomer) will be nursing a sore head this morning but a well deserved one.


The only question is, after a night to remember like this, just how will the event organisers top it next year?


Tobin James



Noah Francis-Johnson Showcase. Shepherds Bush Hall February 2014

The cello is without doubt one of the finest instruments to use when looking for maximum impact in a small space and with a backdrop as ornate and beautiful as the Shepherds Bush Hall, it's easy to understand why both tonight's acts chose to include this often overlooked accompaniment to support their stripped out sets. All in all, both the venue and the instrument choice worked perfectly in setting the scene for Noah Francis-Johnson to introduce us to musical talents whilst effortlessly leading us far away from his less glamorous and ornate past in the Cardiff boxing ring.


Introduced briefly to Gallows Ghost with a four song warm up set, a confident delivery of lilting vocal tones, guitar and cello served a startlingly intimate performance; effortlessly holding the attention of the room even if some members where surprisingly caught otherwise unawares. The trio’s final song choice of a watered down Pharrell Williams Happy cover however, was presumably a dubious choice from their A&R team. This really should leave them asking bigger questions and control of their set list as they noticeably began to lose the attention they had already gained and it felt a touch awkward and contrived. Altogether though, this was a very warm and welcome surprise from a band with a subtle humor and strong harmonies of string and song. It definitely left me wanting more.


Without preamble, and supported not only by the ubiquitous cello and guitar but also keys, Noah introduced himself with a raw soulful voice and a brooding song. There is no denying he's a very talented singer with an enigmatic charisma and a deep passion for his music. His songwriting is certainly archetypal of the more mature singer songwriter but although heartfelt, it really does lack the uniqueness and originality that is needed to redefine the genre and there is little hooky enough to allow instant broad appeal.


All that aside, there is an engaging and consummate performer to be enjoyed here. His intimacy with his own songs and audience allow a delivery that you forget to look for in artists that don't write or understand their own music. Hopefully it's a point that's not completely lost on tonight's audience (typically from inside the industry and the associated media types) who's job it is now to transpose Noah's work to an altogether bigger stage. Having proven through tonight's set of heartbreak, sex, love and forgiveness (recurrent themes is his songs) that he clearly fits in the 'acoustic' bracket the bigger question should maybe be; is there still a mass audience that will take this heartfelt, passionate songsmith over something altogether less soulful but more instantly accessible?

All together, it's a collection of songs that would sit very well on a dinner party CD but not so much on your iPod as there isn't quite enough variation to make you come back. Saying that though, there is little here to stop Noah becoming this generation's Terrance Trent D'Arby (or maybe even Roachford at a push) providing he can similarly find that one big hit and get the right platform and support from tonight's industry savvy audience; providing of course that he’s allowed to develop more as an artist and can move away from indulgent cover songs as evidently it’s his songwriting that a knowledgeable public will eventually buy into.


Tobin James