John Grant at Bord Gais Energy Theatre, 31 March 2019
As he slut drops across the stage of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, there is one thing for sure: if there are any remnants of grey tickles in John Grant, he shows little sign of it. The 50 year old slinks through a two-hour set with the enthusiasm of a man less than half his age.
With support from collaborator Ben ‘Benge’ Edward’s band Oblong, this is the final of four Irish dates (which included stints in University Concert Hall Limerick, Galway’s Leisureland and Cork Opera House).
Against a backdrop of video game visuals and enough dry ice to give upper circle asthmatics a scare, Grant sets the scene with Tempest. He takes a moment to talk about how amazing it is to perform at the Bord Gais, saying “I don’t wanna go back to the hotel tonight, they’re gonna have to kick us out at some point”.
As impressive a venue as it is, a gig like Grant’s is not what the Bord Gais was intended for and this is felt throughout parts of the set. While it is unnoticed during a rare outing of TC and Honeybear and the Chelsea Manning ballad Touch and Go, there is little available in the way of audience participation when Grant beckons during dancefloor-ready numbers like He’s Got His Mother’s Hips and Black Belt. The setlist spans all four albums with a natural emphasis on ‘Love Is Magic‘. The night is dark and full of bops, but unfortunately the Bord Gais just isn’t made for cutting shapes.
Grant more than makes do with what he’s got, although it would be hard to go wrong with the band behind him: a star studded line up including Budgie (of Siouxie and the Banshees fame) on drums and Chris Pemberton on keyboard.
He showcases his witty side during song intros, with comments from how everything in the USA is “going to hell in a handbasket” before introducing JC Hates F*ggots as “a lullaby that my grandmother taught me” to recounting his friend’s suicide after Sensitive New Age Guy, joking “that’s the kind of song you get written about you if you commit suicide on my watch… a dance song”.
He could have finished on Queen of Denmark, with Grant and the band leaving with a thunderous standing ovation, instead returning for a four-song encore including fan favourite GMF and the nostalgia fuelled Marz. Now perched behind the keyboard Grant opens to the audience for the requests. Cries for Sigourney Weaver fell on deaf ears, and it all melts away with a tender performance of Caramel.
Juxtaposed with the sleaze witnessed earlier in the set, it’s absurd that both could have been part of the same set but that’s just what John Grant is. Surely it’s more absurd to reach the age of 50 and not do what you want.