I know this because I went to Alex Clare’s concert at The Marquee earlier this week. When you hear his music – sometimes peppered with dubstep influence, sometimes sweet and contemplative, always soulful – you don’t imagine him grinning the way he did the other night – like a kid who caught the fly ball that allowed his team to win the championships or me about to dive into a sundae with three cherries on top. I was pleasantly surprised.
I was introduced to Alex Clare’s music by one of my former Abby Bella students. I had this open policy where students could request for me to choreograph to a song of their choice. It was a great way to learn about new music. Alex Clare’s single “Too Close” was one of those requests – months before it hit the airwaves.
Then, my friend Sara played me Alex Clare’s cover of “When Doves Cry.” If you know me, you know about my obsession with Prince. I was done for. I started looking up Alex Clare’s music and loved what I heard. He has a voice that’s laced with this booming power and passion that you don’t expect from a British guy with red hair and a beard.
When I caught wind he’d be playing The Marquee, I immediately made plans to purchase tickets. It was worth every penny and then some.
We started our night appropriately with what Sara and I have labeled “soulful gingers” – ginger ale with bourbon. Since my boyfriend isn’t a bourbon fan, he substituted bourbon for vodka, thus creating a “Communist ginger.”
A short while later, Knox, a DJ duo from New York, hit the stage and turned The Marquee into a writhing dance club for their 45-minute set. Normally, I would find a DJ set as an opening act a little on the lame side, but these two sang live, played the drums and the keys, and some of their mixes had a retro vibe a la Earth Wind and Fire. It was fun. Despite some technical difficulties (computers crap out at the crappiest times!), Knox got us sufficiently warmed up.
Sara and I readied ourselves for the main event with frothy IPAs. I saw his pageboy hat on stage right before I saw anything else. And I screamed.
Alex Clare’s set was everything we hoped for. His voice is just as mammoth in person. His accompanying musicians were spot on. He sang “Damn Your Eyes,” an Etta James cover, and I lost my shit. He sang “I Won’t Let You Down” and Sara lost hers. He strummed a guitar and won me over. He sang some new songs, melodies that aren’t released yet, and may have hinted in a new song that he and his wife are expecting – “One heart turned into two / Now there are three hearts beating under my roof.” (Of course, artistic license could be the name of the game here and art may not be imitating life…but if he is expecting, congratulations to those three hearts.)
But nothing could have prepared me for Alex Clare’s smile! And it was my favorite part of the whole night. You know that look of unbridled excitement and happiness people get on their faces when they are truly, truly enjoying what they are doing? Yeah that. Now take it up a notch and you have the adorable expression of Alex Clare every time we cheered for him or he finished a song or he was simply delighted to be onstage.
Smiles like those are so pure and genuine. I, for one, love to see artists who are sublimely happy to be performing. To be living. To be sharing with us. ‘Cause at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – inspiration, connection, and happiness.
Mr. Clare, damn that smile! And please make Phoenix a regular stop on your tours.