Concert Reviews

Clean Bandit, Lizzo at The Mod Club

A sold out Mod Club was on hand to greet Britain’s Clean Bandit on a suitably rainy Monday night. The band had admittedly a bit of a slow start to the night, taking to the stage with violinist Neil Amin-Smith notably absent. While set starter and debut single “A+E” was a good indicator of the power pop to come, it was when Amin-Smith finally bounded on stage three songs deep (apparently delayed by a late flight) that it all started to tie together.

The band – a four-piece on record but a six-piece live – kept the crowd bouncing for the majority of the set. Interestingly, it wasn’t the core quartet that took centre stage, preferring instead to stand back and let two other female vocalists carry the spotlight. 

On record, the vocals are handled by a rotating cast of up-and-coming artists (including opening act Lizzo.) On stage, the band leaves them in the hands of two exceptionally talented vocalists. 

As such, it’s pretty apparent that Clean Bandit understand their limitations. Cellist and vocalist Grace Chatto had some time at the microphone, but her soft, tender voice on songs like “UK Shanty” was washed out amongst the electronics. They needed the extra help and, in achieving that, they extended the effectiveness past the immediate sound as well.

All that is to say: while the record can feel slightly disjointed because of the constant collaborations, the live show is much more connected – a common thread of consistent vocalists running its hour-plus duration.

It’s also an interesting musical mixture: the band combines elements of classical (including a violin and cello solo of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet No. 21 on the otherwise video game-sounding“Mozart’s House”); pure, danceable pop; upbeat electro; R&B; and even reggae (“Come Over”). They’re the type of band that likely grew up seeing the Spice Girls but could only exist in this constantly connected internet culture, where people are exposed to so many sounds and can pick and choose what they like. Choreographed dance moves aside, Clean Bandit is a band that trade big in millennial twists. It’s unexpected enough to still be interesting, but oddly familiar as well.

The band also took time during their first Canadian show to get away from New Eyes (their 2014 debut) and introduce “Stronger” – an ambitious electronic number that could potentially turn into a monster of a live song. Right now they’ve held back part of its potential by limiting it in duration, but if they give it room to grow and extend that electronic extro, floors will undoubtedly shake.

It was the dance party that the crowd was indeed there for – the slowly simmering, self-reflexive “Birch” falling flat on the ears of an upbeat crowd. Contrasting that to the audience reaction on that “Extraordinary” bass drop and it was clear to see what the audience came for.

The band left the stage to huge applause (really – probably one of the loudest calls for an encore I’ve ever heard,) returning with huge smiles for “Show Me Love” and breakout hit “Rather Be”.

For a debut, it was hugely infectious and an all around good time. Expect bigger stages for Clean Bandit – this is the type of fun, sugary pop that will get eaten up by the spoonful. As an added bonus: it’s the type of fun, sugary pop that still seems pretty intelligent. That sort of classification doesn’t happen very often.

Thanks to Embrace Presents for media access.

About author

Former Music Editor & Concert Photographer at Live in Limbo. Sarah was born in Toronto. She's worked at some places that you've heard of (like NXNE) and some that you haven't. She is an Academy Delegate at the JUNOs (CARAS). You can usually find Sarah at a concert, on Twitter @beets, or on Instagram @sarahrix. She also likes dogs and cheeseburgers.