Clark Beckham At Q's Bar & Lounge - Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai

'This is one talented cat, and I'm so excited for Dubai to witness this genius live', said Quincy Jones on Clark Beckham, the latest resident at Jones' own Qs Bar & Lounge at the Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai. That is quite a commendation, and knowing he is the 6th performer at Q's, it really is quite a comment. Now, I am faced with two issues as I make way to watch and hear this highly rated performer. First, he follows a superb songwriter and performer in Eli Teplin who has just finished his residence. Secondly, Quincy Jones, super record producer and entertainment mogul, cannot be wrong, right? 

It is an evening that starts off with me reminding myself and indeed challenging myself to be objective for as you know from my last post, I thought Eli Teplin was quite special.

The evening starts around 21h15 and without fanfare; Clark Beckham starts with himself at the piano,  on drums Aaron Dick and on bass guitar, Matt Goodloe. It looks and feels like a couple guys having a very professional jamming session. There are no vocals in the first set, as Clark explains, he simply wants people to relax and get into the evening - a  smart move because while Qs is fully booked, it will only fill up around the time of the second set. Oh, on a not so side note, Clark plays the drums too!

There is a real jazzy feel to the evening - conversation flows around the bar while staff, chilled as always, keep drinkings flowing. I notice early on that Clark seems equally at home on the guitar as he is on the piano.

However, despite what he said when he kicked off the show, it is not all instruments and at the end of the set, he teases us with a atse of things to come and does a cover of Tracy Chapman's Give Me One Reason, a piece that shows us his incredible range. He is able to take notes to another level without seemingly great effort, or if it takes effort, he masks it well. It is an energised performance and when it ends, I almost feel cheated because it had to end, but I know there is more coming. 

In anticipation of the next two sessions, I decide to have something to eat. I am clearly undecided, having tried several dishes on the menu already. Sensing my uncertainty, Flora, one of those waitresses who is so much more than a waitress because she has the verve and personality to make you forget that she is a waitress, recommends that I try the vegetarian  Vietnamese spring rolls,  while she effortlessly connects with guests, indulging in banter while not forgetting her primary role. When the dish is served, I am thrilled. Dry ice has become a very popular tool when it comes to creating theatre at a table. It works - I never tire of it. This is an excellent choice if you need something light and you will be quite pleased with the dish itself, once the dry ice loses its effect. One word: crunchy!

The second set starts off with a stirring version of James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World, a song that reflects Clark's musical influence. This song is all soul and it a fitting way to start of set two. If this song is about the strength of his vocals, then his rendition of John Mayer's I Don't Trust Myself with loving you is about a different strength in  him - his sensitive side, where his voice is so measured. His superb guitar solo is an absolute highlight and at that point it dawns on me that his skills with the strings and keys and vocals make him a unique performer to be hosted by Q's - it is really hard to say which he does better and that is a credit to him. 

I'm Just What You Need is a beautiful moment in which Clarke takes his sensitive side to the nth degree, allowing me to realise that he really is the complete artist. An original composition, I'm just What You Need, describes what really matters in a relationship has nothing to with fancy cars and limousines. He goes on:  'It's hard to have commitment issues,  when youre the one I get to commit to.'

After this, he gives us more insight to those musical influences alluded to earlier. He cites the impact of Ray Charles as pivotal, but also mentions the influence of some big 60s and 70s soul performers like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. 

Notwithstanding that tonight's audience has some very unappreciative members but Clark and the band have this single mindedness and carry on, almost as if the art in itself, just sharing it, is the prize. Clark himself is just such a professional performer. It is a shame though, that some guests have to be educated in when it comes to appreciating music in a venue like this - it's not a 20 000 seater arena where you need to talk at the top of your voice.  My compliments to staff for how they deal with the guilty guests.

This distraction, though, is soon pushed to the back of my mind as he does Let's Stay Together by Al Green - another superb piece of soul mixed with some crazy vocals. But you know, I could put exactly the same comment, underpinned by the words, 'vocal range and strength' for other songs which follow in quick succession. 

By the time set 3 arrives, the brilliance of the venue that is Q comes to the fore once more. All seats are taken, while there are some standing at the bar. It is packed. Clark Beckham launches into I Need, another remarkable honest piece. He sings:

I need love to keep me warm 
I need love to weather my storm 
I need love that'll see me through

That doesn't ask what I can do 
But a love that says I believe 
That takes my dreams and conceives 
Oh I need peace to set me free 
I need peace to put my mind at ease 
Oh I need peace to keep my soul alive

In fact, in the 3rd set, he really wears his heart on his sleeve and shows his mellow side, although balanced nicely by his electric guitar strings, where his songwriting takes centre stage. His audience engagement is also at its peak during this set and as a preamble to Sleep, he talks about what happens when we fall in love, something we can all relate to. Love may not have ended the way we all wanted to, but what is universal is his idea that sleep is what is lost when we just fall in love - too excited to sleep. How true! Make sure you listen attentively to the lyrics of this song. 

However,  this set is not just about deep meaningful lyrics. It is also fun, as he takes requests. he does some amazing interpretations of requests and also songs that shot him to stardom on American Idol where he inexplicably ended as runner up in Season 14. Because he operates on such an intense level, I would like to see him do more 'bread and butter' fun songs. His 30 second take on Sweet Home Alabama is exactly that - fun and almost non-cerebrally enjoyable and point to a side of him he may want to look at as he grows as an artist. 

Several songs highlight his insane skills on the guitar as much as his delicate supremacy on piano. It dawns on me that if I walked out just after he did his absolutely breathtaking version of The Weeknd's Earned It and returned while he was doing The Thrill Is Gone, BB King's classic, it would feel like two different performers because I feel both the piano and guitar express a different side of his personality, but both equally wonderful to experience. 

As he closes the show with a searing tribute to Bill Withers with Aint No Sunshine, I cannot help but reflect again, on the venue that is Q's. In my last piece I remarked that it is  a genuine music venue catering for different styles, notwithstanding the jazzy angle that three previous performers brought to the venue. Clark Beckham emphasises this again. His rock meets blues encore of Give Me One Reason. Just because it is a small and intimate venue does not mean performers cannot bring down the roof with some serious guitar riffs. I can see this venue evolving even more to accommodate a rock act soon!

Clark Beckham's show ranks as one of my two top performances at the venue. He is the consummate performer who is set for bigger things. Watching him and listening to him, with his Adam Levine touches, allowed me to visualise him at an indoor arena, a space fitting for his marvelous vocal range and where he could use a large stage to really show to what extent he owns it. Quincy Jones' additional comment that he believes 'God left his hand on Clark's shoulder a bit longer than others' makes so much sense now. 

The Essentials

Q's Bar & Lounge
Palazzo Versace Hotel
+971 4 556 8888

Qs at Palazzo Versace
Note: There is a minimum spend of AED250 on weekdays, 350AED Thursday and Friday

Disclaimer: I tried Q's by invitation of the hotel. All views are my own. 
Brandon Stoltenkamp