Vince Clarke’s first live solo show launching his debut album, ‘Songs of Silence’, saw him perform most of the tracklist in order with multi-angled visuals on screens placed around the venue and accompanied by his partner Reed Hays, who collaborated on the release. Clarke began nervously on opening track, ‘Cathedral’, which is an ambient piece of spatial exploration; it worked well as an opener but was missing the disembodied vocal sample on the recorded version. They went straight into second track, ‘White Rabbit’, which soon developed into its fast paced tribal beats with a morbidly illustrated cartoon playing in the background. Each track was quite short meaning the set did not flow as well, with awkward silences between which Clarke struggled to fill, by his own admission due to not being used to performing on his own without Erasure co-founder Andy Bell, but he received plenty of audience support.
For ‘Passage’, Sarah-Jane Morris came onstage to perform live opera vocals; sadly it was lacking the audacity and cohesion of the recorded equivalent which is one of the best tracks on the album, but it did at least provide a variation to the live setup. Clarke then performed ‘The Cave’: a track not on the album but released as a promotional single; chilling cavernous echos and razor scrapings immersed the room making it one of the best performances of the whole set, it was just painfully short. ‘Red Planet’ was a mysterious visit to an unknown and dangerous landscape, although the bracketing effects were a bit too similar to John Carpenter and the beautiful ghostly wail at the end of the piece would have again benefited from being longer lasting.
The triumph in the set arrived in Hays playing electric cello for ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’, as Clarke remained on electronics which consisted of a constant synth hum; a standout track on the release, Hays’ back and forward strokes were less amplified and croaky than on the released version, but replicated the beautiful woody, ancient awakenings on the track. Another prize performance was ‘Blackleg’: its grim, green glow semi-lighting the room with ominous cavernous shimmers, the visuals featuring miners ascending from their dark pits; it being the only track on the album to contain lyrical content – created on a Revox tape recording machine – in the form of a miner chant about the terrible treatment of the “dirty blackleg miner.” Deviating from the album, Clarke included a track from his series of drone album collaborations simply entitled ‘Drone 8’ featuring a repetitive key. The final track of the album is aptly named ‘The Last Transmission’, which Clarke finished his show on. Due to his lack in confidence, Clarke’s first solo outing was experimentally hesitant and holding something aback, both on record and in live performance, but the presence of such whispers of beauty are surely to be developed further next time around.
17/11/23: Vince Clarke @ London School of Economics, London.
Photo (top) © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.
Photo (bottom) © Ayisha Khan.
© Ayisha Khan.