JOHN GRANT // O2 ACADEMY, LEEDS
The coldest night of the year saw the hardiest of souls venture out to the O2 in Leeds to see John Grant on is current tour in support of his latest album ‘Love is Magic’ released in Oct 18, and they were rewarded with an artist at the top of his game who delivered set of stunning quality.
Support was from EB The Younger, who is someone I must confess I hadn’t come across before. EB (Eric Brandon Pulido), guitar and vocals along with Dan Creamer on keyboards delivered a folksy soft rock set which was well received by the audience, and his engaging laid back inter song banter soon had the crowd on his side. Musical comparisons are often viewed as being a lazy option when reviewing but in this case you couldn’t help but be reminded me of The Eagles, with his smooth vocals, catchy melodies and sublime harmonies throughout. Sadly this was only a 30 minute set, but the good news is that his debut album ‘To Each His Own’ is set for release on the 8th March and based on what I saw last night was enough to ensure that I check out this release.
EB is on tour with John Grant at all the dates shown below concluding on the 11th Feb in Cardiff at St David’s Hall.
Tickets are still available!
With the crowd nicely warmed up, it was time for John Grant to take the stage. It amazes me that this man and his albums are still relatively unknown. This is suspect suits him as he clearly likes playing in relatively small venues, however his exposure via programmes such as Live with Jools Holland, his undoubted lyrical writing abilities and almost classically trained voice may change this in the near future. His four solo albums have received huge critical acclaim both for their musical quality and his searingly honest lyrics. Indeed his first album in 2010, ‘Queen of Denmark’ received the album of the year accolade from Mojo. That’s not to suggest that his output since then has diminished in any way, indeed the reality is that each album seems to get better and better. His latest offering ‘Love is Magic’ released in Oct 18 is one of those rare offerings that gets better and better with each listen.
Opening track tonight was slow burning ‘Tempest’ from his current album. Sweeping synths and drums accompanied along with great old school space invaders affects underpinned his unique baritone voice. From there it was straight into ‘Grey Tickles’ with Grant on piano delivering his starkly honest lyrics, accompanied by swelling orchestral synth which was warmly received by the audience.
There followed a passionate few word from him about the terrible recent attack on American actor Jussie Smollet and the sinister undertones that it has been associated with. As he said, appropriately enough the next tune was ‘Smug C**t’’ which contained hints of Erasure and Human League in its delivery. It’s important to say that this gig was rare in that the delivery from Grant and the band was near flawless, and you would have been hard pushed to tell the difference between the live and recorded version of these tunes.
Understandably much of this set featured new tracks from his new album, but of course there were the crowd favourites such as ‘Black Belt’ and ‘SNAG’ (Sensitive New Age Guy) which were booming electro dance workouts which made me think of LCD Soundsystem, which got the crowd moving.
A pared back version of ‘Glacier’ featured his soaring vocals front and centre and again his almost painfully honest lyrics told their own story in describing the problems that gay people face in their everyday lives. Of course no John Grant set would be complete without ‘Queen of Denmark and this gig was no exception. A mixture of ballad and huge rock out was the perfect way to bring this set to a close.
The encore featured crowd favourites ‘GMF’ (Google it if you want to know what that means!) and the piano ballad ‘Marz’ brought the evening to a close. John Grant and his band had provided almost 2 hours of quality music and he proved once again that he owns one of the most distinctive voices in music. That coupled with great musicianship and lyrics that made you want to actually listen to what he was saying ensured that the Leeds crowd wandered out into the sub-zero temps feeling nice and warm on the inside!
SETLIST: | JOHN GRANT : O2 ACADEMY, LEEDS - 30.01.2019
Doesn’t Matter To Him
TC & Honey Bear
Touch & Go
Is He Strange
Queen Of Denmark