The scene was set. Friday night, the first night of the Bank Holiday weekend, John Grant in Vicar St seemed like it could be the perfect start especially given the reviews his current album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ has received.
Liza Flume opens the night’s entertainment. Over the past while, Flume has received much praise and it’s easy to see why. The first song of her set In Time, has the Dublin based Aussie singer live looping guitar and vocals, adding to each layer as the song progresses. She cleverly harmonizes with her own sampled vocals before all samples are removed, leaving Flume singing acappella before reaching the crescendo with the full force of her acoustic guitar.
Flume’s voice has an endearing quality, pure but with a little bit of grit which make her lyrics and songs believable and honest. The audience are treated to tracks from Flume’s current EP ‘Full Steam Ahead’ but also get a cover of Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat, which is given the trademark Flume treatment of sampled layers to produce something special. The set is ends with What We Call Love, a catchy memorable song brought along by a finger click rhythm. Flume shows great potential as a performer and a songwriter and true talent in arranging her own material. Put her on your ‘must check out’ list.
The opening bars of You Don’t Have To fill the auditorium as John Grant comes to the stage, however when he goes to sing into the microphone, there’s no sound – after an impressive non-panicked adjustment of cables by one of the band, all is right with the world. The bass synth sound on the track and sampled rhythms dominate many of the tracks Grant plays from his current album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.
As he finishes his first track he comments on how “lovely it is to be here” but also how frustrating it is that he doesn’t get to see much of the city. Grant currently lives in Iceland and four of his five band members hail from the island, the fifth, his keyboard player, Chris comes from Coventry.
The downbeat Vietnam follows. The bearded Grant is dressed casually, jeans and a polo shirt and trainers with illuminous soles and laces, which glow under the stage lights. Throughout the show he dances and moves from microphone to the keyboards on the left of the stage to play during the instrumental breaks. Layers of electronic sounds and samples are laid on top of a traditional band set up of guitar, bass, keys and drums.
Grant is a likeable character; he jokes that he’s going to do an Alice Cooper cover, and that he loves the aforementioned bass synth sound so much he would “put it on his cornflakes in the morning“. He also acknowledges his HIV status during the set and his inbetween words alongside his soul-baring lyrics easily bridge the gap between stage and audience, who obviously have been listening to ‘Pale Green Ghosts’. The title track gets a cheer from the opening notes as does the highly danceable Sensitive New Age Guy.
Sinead O’Connor appears on four tracks from Pale Green Ghosts so it’s not too much of a surprise when she appears onstage, but the crowd still go into overdrive. O’Connor sing barefoot and wears a ‘GMF’ tshirt from Grant’s merch stand. It Doesn’t Matter to Him follows Why Don’t You Love Me and O’Connor’s backing vocals are immaculate, reminding us that she is one of our isle’s gems.
Grant and O’Connor seem very comfortable on stage together and she seemed to get a kick out of singing the “I am the greatest MotherF...” O’Connor leaves the stage during I Hate This Town only to be seen dancing at the side of the stage. Grant is quick to point out that the song is “not about this town” and how his own song reminds him of Abba’s Chiquitita and a dance move he once saw Frida do on TV. Grant is dancing onstage and doing this weird ‘Frida clap’, and the audience back him up well, but it’s the piano led Glacier that gets the crowd to their feet.
Grant gives a tender vocal performance, while Ms O’Connor goes from backing singer to taking charge on a verse. As the track builds towards, the petite O’Connor steps on Grants feet and the pair dance around the stage in a bear hug. The only way they can finish this set is with Queen of Denmark, two fantastic vocal performances together one one stage, making a great song even better. A trio of songs provide the audience with an encore, with Where Dreams Go To Die, TC & Honeybear and Caramel bringing the evening to a close.
As Grant leaves the stage, the rapturous applause continues until the house lights brighten the venue after an amazing night’s music and quite an extraordinary connection with the audience. One to remember.