For a band with Clinic’s sonic reach the Scala seemed a potentially inadequate venue, but instead it represented a chance to get up close and personal with their powerful music, forsaking the inevitable ear damage.
For Clinic are best experienced as loud as is humanly possible, and it’s extraordinary to observe the ease with which they secure that volume. Ten years familiarity with each other helps of course, but their no frills approach means the music takes centre stage. No posturing here in the slightest, with singer Ade Blackburn communicating with the audience on a strictly need to know, song titles and thanks-only basis.
That said, communication is always going to be difficult if you’re wearing a top hat and surgical mask, a de rigueur for the quartet that’s been a feature of their live performances for years. With black smocks, it makes them look like a cross between Jane Austen period pieces and extras on an episode of Silent Witness.
The rush of noise is thrilling, particularly in mosh-friendly tracks such as Tusk or the closing Cement Mixer, introduced briefly by a fiery toccata from Blackburn’s keyboard. The band’s rhythmic groove is more telling in the live environment, and drummer Carl Turney seems equally at ease laying on a loping Manchester groove or executing a thrashy rush of hi hats.
Curiously the masks serve to enhance the music, bringing forward the creepy, disembodied nature of the vocals and preserving the band’s identity. Now and then however a void opens up centre stage as Blackburn, the principal focus, drifts off to the side to man the wonderfully ethereal sounds on his keyboard.
New song The Witch goes down well with the attentive crowd, as does past favourite Walking With Thee, though you can’t help but feel a more passionate Northern crowd would have done its refrain more justice, despite the authority with which the band punch out the riffing.
All of a sudden, time’s up – and in barely an hour on stage, Clinic have given us close on twenty songs, and nobody feels in the least short changed. As Cement Mixer slams into a brick wall at the end, its as if an electrical charge has been transmitted – and the band slope off as if another Wednesday in their office has been successfully negotiated.