'Badu delivers a fiercely controlled live experience, simmering powerfully just below boiling-over point'
David McKenna
13:06 14th November 2018

The Clockenflap festival site actually provides welcome breathing space if you’ve spent the day traversing Hong Kong Island’s densely packed streets (one of which is devoted entirely almost to shops selling dried fish products) and neck-ache inducing vertical vistas. It never feels over-full – which is perhaps a result of good planning, or the price of tickets, or both – meaning you can usually get as close to the stages as you like. It also means there’s room for a tiny mobile DJ booth to trundle around and the three giant Birdmen (folks in skull-white Jim Henson-nightmare costumes) who pick their way through the crowds.

If Day Two belonged to David Byrne and Jarvis Cocker, Sunday is undoubtedly Erykah Badu’s night – she’s an unexpectedly brilliant (and I believe last-minute) choice for a booking. Here’s a round-up of the closing night’s sights and sounds.

Cornelius A key figure of the Shibuya-kei scene born in Japan in the 90s along with Pizzacato Five, Buffalo Daughter and Cibo Matto, Cornelius is still doing his Beach Boys and Bacharach-gone- plastic prog thing, simultaneously lush and clinical. It’s not quite the most impressive show I’ve seen from him visually, but still a delicious curveball of a choice for a main stage, with parallel universe pop classics ‘Count Five or Six’ and ‘Star Fruits Surf Rider’ both getting an airing.

The US/UK Indie Rock Quarantine

There’s a straight run of Sunflower Bean, Wolf Alice and The Vaccines on the second largest stage (called FWD) which either way you look at it is probably a blessing. If Arena Indie is your bag then this is your place be for the evening; if not then you know exactly which stage to avoid. Sunflower Bean sit squarely at the 6 Music/Top Shop intersection; Wolf Alice’s immaculately buffed textures are pleasantly anonymous but are still absolute bliss relative to the artistic vacuum that is The Vaccines.

Khalid the American Teen

The US singer is an immediately endearing presence, backed by a supple live band and live dancers and tearing straight into ‘8Teen’ (“because I’m 18/And I still live with my parents”) but the relentlessly bright and bubbly appeal starts to wane four or five songs in.

Erykah Badu’s Slow Burn

Now here’s how to construct a set. Badu’s status as a pioneer of neo soul is undisputed, but she’s also delivers a fiercely controlled live experience, simmering powerfully just below boiling-over point. For the first few songs she commands the stage alone while her band stays hidden behind a curtain. It’s a brave approach, eschewing rabble rousing in favour of something more immersive. She invites us to sing “so the ancestors can hear us” while coaxing the best out of classics like ‘On & On’.

Roni Size

After Badu there’s just time to race over to the Club Max stage for the conclusion to Bristol pioneer Roni Size’s set – a brief encore in fact but one which is fearsome enough to remind that, in spite of his more languid excursions, Size also produced some truly rugged tracks that defined the burgeoning jungle sound back in the halcyon early-mid 90s. 

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Photo: Kitmin Lee / Chris Lush