Benjamin Clementine “whooed” me to tears. Like a weapon, he wielded that digraph, that blend of a soft “w” and an aspirated “h” and those long drawn out vowels. He made the audience take notice. With his voice and with his piano, he created beautiful and demanding sounds. He commanded the full attention of San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall.

Dressed in a suit with no shit at all, he has skinny abs suggesting he ate nothing but devotion to his craft. His long, stringy limbs began dancing across every key on the piano. He had frizzy black hair like a troll doll elongated into a magnificent alien creature. He evolved to make the sweetest sounds.

He belonged in the Hall’s hallowed venue nestled in the heart of the Tenderloin. The cathedral acoustics gave him the pulpit necessary to create something majestic and sacred. He had no opener, so we waited in building anticipation. We stood in that purple hall with its magnificent wood work. Its plastered ceiling shows off delicate designs fit for the Versailles. The crowd gathered with respectful solemnity. At his behest, the venue banned all phones and cameras. They prepped us with a funky and expansive house track. When he took his time taking the stage, we were primed.

He came on stage with a self-effacing manner. We watched that humble man fill it up that majestic hall with colors. He fused his emotions and soul into his voice and painted in the air. He formed pastel clouds that dissipated into the soft light of the chandeliers. Those clouds often crackled with lightning.

He sang poetry speaking of death, loss and apathy. Always, he added a lovable smugness to his bleak acceptacd nce of the mortal condition. Yet, his humility charmed us during the occasional chat between songs. In song, he reveled in his humanity and embraced his frailty. After demanding ever more from his piano, he gave the audience sly winks. He reassured us that the beginning and end of things drove the cycle of rebirth. His look told us he took human form once again just to mess with us. He returned to remind us of beauty. He was part Nina Simone, part Screaming Jay Hawkins and had a choir of celestials on retainer.

He spoke about angels visiting him. Unlike typical celestial visitations, they did not need to instruct him. They must have just cime around for a jam session. Gabriel, lyre and bongos in hand, must have knocked on the door of his London flat. He demonstrated what they sounded like. He improvised complex scores on the piano. He built a layered chorus to convey their message. He crescendoed in clarion notes of unintelligible phrases. He pointed out how brief this divine harmony tended to be. Falling silent, the angels left but the room remained transformed by their brief appearance.

He tried to play Bob Dylan and prefaced it with an apology. He did not know the words and said, “it was shit,” when he abandoned it. Instead, he said he should play his own songs. He created a moment of ambiguity in his homage. Could he not play Bob Dylan? Or could he play circles around Bob Dylan while writing all his songs in a proper key?

More than once, he made tears stream down my face. When he touched the piano, he began expressing warmth I had never felt before. I could feel the energy on my face with such precision. Each note stimulated an individual nerve. When he left, as he promised with the angels, I felt a little sad, but content I got to embrace it while it lasted.