Clean Bandit at the Fillmore, by Estefany Gonzalez
Clean Bandit (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)

Monday night's show at The Fillmore, brought forth an impressive lineup of rising artists for a weeknight. The headliner, English trio Clean Bandit struck it rich — musically rich, that is — when members squashed musical boundaries by combining traditional string instruments with modern electronic devices to become innovators of classical dance music, or baroque pop, as the band has called it.

Australian singer/songwriter Starley was a grand start to the sold-out show at a packed Fillmore this week. Her set of about five songs was short but mighty. “Who’s here with someone they love?” Starley asked before singing her song of love lost, “Been Meaning To Tell You.” “This is one of my favorites,” she called out before performing a striking rendition of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman.

Starley then told the crowd of moving to London with a dream of being a singer. She recalled feeling knocked down as industry folks told her, “You are not pretty enough. Straighten your hair.” Disheartened and depressed, she returned home to Australia. But passion held strong in her heart. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything but music," she said. "I need people to hear this message.” That is when she wrote “Call On Me,” her 2016 debut single and international hit — an inspirational close to her set.

Swedish phenom Zara Larsson kept with the electro-dance-pop theme of the night. She didn’t miss a step dancing with her crew and nailed note after note with her spectacular vocals. Larsson began her set with “Lush Life,” which was just the start in a list of hits. “Ignore negativity and the hate. All the haters, don’t listen to them,” she told the screaming crowd before belting out “What They Say.”

Larsson highlighted her joint ventures including “This One’s For You,” her collaboration with David Guetta, and “Don’t Let Me Be Yours,” which she wrote with Ed Sheeran. Larsson continued with fan favorite “Ain’t My Fault” and closed with “Never Forget You,” her project with British producer/singer MNEK.

As Larsson left stage and Clean Bandit prepared to come on, through the haze of glowing stage fog was evidence of what makes the band’s signature classical-infused electro-pop sound — the atypical pairing of cello and Octapad.

At last the unassuming band appeared — Luke Patterson to his drum kit, brother Jack Patterson to his keys, and Grace Chatto up front and flanked by singers Kirsten Joy and Yasmin Green.  They opened with “UK Shanty.” Stephanie Benedetti joined with her violin for the upbeat “Stronger.”

The band spoke few words, except for Chatto’s remark that The Fillmore is one of the group’s favorite venues in the world. The always-dancing Chatto was doing triple-duty the entire show, alternating between singing, as well as playing the cello and the Octapad. There is no sight like watching the charming Chatto having such fun, dancing with outstretched bow beside her cello, then returning composed just in time to play her string parts.

The show was a balance of current hits, recent singles, and early tunes from the band’s only studio album New Eyes released about three years ago. Fans of the album recognized “Extraordinary,” “Heart On Fire,” “A+E,” “Come Over,” and “Telephone Banking.”

Clean Bandit formed in 2008 originally as a four-piece when members were students at Cambridge University. Chatto and violinist Neil Amin-Smith, both classically trained, played together in a string quartet. Jack Patterson came up with the idea of incorporating their string instruments and adding sampling and electronic beats to classical music. His brother Luke Patterson joined to play drums.

Chatto moved to Russia to study Russian literature, learn the language, and play cello. Jack Patterson went with her and studied at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography. Here he began blending music with filmmaking and became “obsessed” with making music videos. The band’s name reportedly comes from the translation of a Russian phrase said to mean “complete bastard.” Clean Bandit’s debut album New Eyes came out in 2014. In late October 2016, Amin-Smith announced via Twitter that he decided to leave the band.

Amid the several nods back to New Eyes during the San Francisco show were selections from the present. Larsson, who is the vocalist on Clean Bandit’s latest single “Symphony,” returned to stage to perform the song released in March 2017.

The single “Rockabye,” released in October 2016, features singer Anne-Marie and rapper Sean Paul. Though Paul was not there to perform his part, he was there in spirit and in backing track. The dance song about single motherhood is the band’s second No. 1 hit in the UK and charted at No. 9 in the US.

“This next song is pretty much brand new and it is our favorite,” said Joy when introducing “Should’ve Known Better.”

“We need you to sing with us,” said Green, inviting the crowd to join in for “Real Love,” a 2014 collaboration with Jess Glynne that reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart.

For the encore, Clean Bandit performed “Tears.” This tune along with “Rockabye,” “Symphony,” and “Should’ve Known Better,” are rumored to be on the band’s second studio album expected later this year on Atlantic Records.

Clean Bandit closed the show with its Grammy-winning breakout hit and song of perfection. Benedetti took center and the audience erupted as she began that iconic opening violin solo. Enter vocals from Joy, “Ohhh ohhh. We’re a thousand miles from comfort,” add the equally recognizable xylophone-sounding part, then thumping beats and occasional cello by Chatto. The euphoric crowd completely let go — uniformly jumping and singing along. “There’s no place I’d rather be.”

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