Three albums and countless EPs into its career, Clinic still performs in surgical scrubs. The British band, which played the Paradise on Tuesday, came onstage (at 10:05, when "Scrubs" had just ended, perhaps not coincidentally) wearing the doctors' garb and surgical masks that have become its trademark. It's a gimmick, and the band's performance demonstrated the perils of being defined by anything other than music.
Like countless other British groups of its generation, Clinic owes a debt to Radiohead, but rather than the swoopy dramatics of "The Bends," albums such as "Walking With Thee" and the new "Winchester Cathedral" are informed more by "Kid A" and its prog-rock forebears. That's an invitation to half-formed material, and the spaces between applause on Tuesday sometimes seemed less like fully realized songs than like excuses to experiment with different sonic ideas and cool noises.
Clinic kept things moving at a brisk pace, though, and the visceral impact of live performance made songs such as "W.D.Y.Y.B," "Pet Eunuch," and "Welcome" sound warmer and more organic than on disc.
At times, the costume gimmick wasn't simply a distraction but threw a wall between Clinic and its fans. The band's faces were obscured by the masks and headgear, and there was little attempt to connect to the audience beyond the announcement of song titles.
Still, nothing in the musicians' demeanor or stage presence suggested that they felt hampered by their attire; rather than go the Devo route and present themselves as blank slates, guitarist and keyboardist Ade Blackburn sang with an energy evident to those close enough to the stage, and Brian Campbell did a joyful neck bob as he played his bass. Those were signs of love of performance, and Clinic would do well not to hide it behind shtick.
The Glaswegian band Sons and Daughters outshone the headliners by showcasing excellent material without obstruction. Their set twitched with an energy that fed into numbers like "Johnny Cash" from "Love the Cup," with its simple but sinister bass line, and "Blood," which featured a staring match between singer Adele Bethel and guitarist Scott Paterson, who held their tambourine and guitar, respectively, as the rhythm section spun the song.
Openers Midnight Movies began the evening with an intriguing set of dark, unsettling drones that sounded like a young Stereolab playing the early catalog of New Zealand's Flying Nun label.