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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Live Review – John Grant, The Royal Festival Hall, London

The Royal Festival Hall, London. September 8th.

After months of performing songs from The Queen Of Denmark armed with just a grand piano John Grant finally rewards us with a prestige show at The Royal Festival Hall with Texan stable mates Midlake as his backing band, or as he lovingly refers to as "his boys". Tonights sold out RFH is buzzing with excitement as John takes to the stage accompanied by the aforementioned piano and a violin player to perform a couple of new tunes.

Of the two songs, in ‘You Don’t Have To’ we see Grant true to form, for his lyrical delivery doesn’t disappoint, leaving the subject of the song absolutely no mercy whatsoever. "If you thought that one was fucked up wait until you hear this one," John announces, much to the delight of the audience. For someone who writes lyrics as elegantly sad as John Grant he certainly cuts a jolly persona on stage, very at ease and very personable with plenty of jokey between song banter.

So next up, the reason we are all here, enter Midlake (minus Tim Smith) to deliver The Queen of Denmark album in it’s entirety (although not in song order). From the opening bars of ‘Sigourney Weaver’ to the closing title track they don’t fail to deliver. It’s an epic, faultless performance. Some dreamy harmonies from Eric Pulido sit along perfectly with the richness of Grant’s baritone voice. At times I’m reminded of ELO or even  mid-70s Al Stewart and Gerry Rafferty territory due to the lush arrangements and execution of the songs but easy listening it’s not, in the nicest possible way you understand!

It’s all over far too quickly as the audience rise to their feet for a standing ovation. You can’t help but get the feeling that tonight, along with a couple of thousand others, that you witnessed something quite special. A performance I’m sure that will be talked about for a many years to come. Quite simply it was an outstanding display of an outstanding album by an outstanding artist and his band. Amen.

Tony Clarke

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