Benjamin Clementine's rise to fame has been a true rags-to-riches story. Having left his home in the UK at age 19, he spent two years on the streets of Paris busking for food before being discovered. When he first performed live on a BBC music show, it was as if he'd appeared out of nowhere: a strange, compelling, presence with a haunting baritone, performing a heart-wrenching song alone at a piano. A week later, he was the most shared artist on Spotify, and didn't take long before he was signed up by a major record label. Since then, via a Mercury Prize win in 2015, he has released a series of acclaimed albums and performed around the world, continually evolving as an artist and captivating audiences at his concerts, which can reach heights of mystical intensity.
'Still impossible to pigeonhole, his hybrid of classical, chamber pop, baroque, and jazz is as thrilling as ever.'
In the early days of his fame, the music press would characterise him with the phrase 'if Nina Simone had been a man.' The comparison is understandable, even if Clementine himself isn't keen on it: the voice, the authenticity of expression, and the soulfulness in performance all recall that phenomenal American artist. Though many first encountered him as a solo performer, alone with a piano, Clementine's versatility and artistic curiosity have been hallmarks of his career, with elements of classical music, chanson, and jazz weaving their way through his albums and live shows. From his debut album At Least For Now to 2022's self-produced And I Have Been, critics have lavished his work with praise - but it's in a live setting that the strange power of his music is most readily apparent, and perhaps never more so than in its purest, most stripped-down form.
'Clementine has a rich, resonant baritone which adds gravitas to every note.'
From the streets of Paris to the stage of Rudolfinum: it's tempting to look at Clementine's story as a fairy-tale. Far better, though, simply to experience this remarkable artist in performance, and let his music tell its own tale.
Benjamin Clementine – vocals, piano