John Grant at Vicar Street on the 9th of November, 2015
“I just want to stand here and tell you guys that you are the greatest motherf****rs,”says John Grant as he takes to the Vicar Street stage on Monday night.
It’s the first of his back-to-back sell out gigs in Dublin this week and as he opens with the title track of his latest album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, Grant holds the audience immediately.
The song’s stark lyrics such as “And there are children who have cancer. And so all bets are off. Because I can’t compete with that,” seem all the more frank and honest when performed live – the lush strings fanning the flames of his words.
He’s joined on stage tonight by a group of female backing singers and his appreciation for their sweet harmonies, which lift even the darkest of his refrains, is evident from the start.
“You know I’ve wanted to work with backing singers my whole f*cking life… so badly” he says as he graciously introduces the female vocalists.
He slips into Geraldine and the audience enthusiastically sing along, helping Grant to belt out the aching chorus: “We’re not like them, we’re not that strong. At least that’s what they have been telling us all along. Geraldine. Please tell me that it wasn’t that way for you.”
The set is predominantly built around tracks from Grant’s third album but he makes room for his previous work; gliding through the rich, orchestral pop of his first album, Queen of Denmark to the steely, confessional electro-pop of Pale Green Ghosts.
He’s the right man to explore, with characteristic frankness, a series of uncomfortable and sometimes painful experiences that are familiar to most such as break-ups, self-loathing, self-destruction, paranoia and anger.
The seven-minute long Glacier addresses the struggles overcome by gay people in everyday life and tonight, Grant performs it with unflinching beauty and simplicity.
Before he sinks into the song, he thanks the crowd for pushing that historic ‘Yes’ vote in May and for half a minute, the whole room erupts in cheers while Grant smiles back – it’s a pretty special moment.
“We already discussed at the start of the night that you guys are the greatest motherf****rs,” he says before treating the crowd to GMF, not one voice in the room holds back as he lets the crowd take control of the chorus and they do so with gusto.
The mood between tracks is always light and Grant’s dry sense of humour is well received. His conspiracy that mic stands were designed by ‘Nazis who managed to escape the Nuremberg trials’ as he struggle to steady his own, draws plenty of laughs.
Throughout the set, Grant moves around the stage with ease, he’s seems completely relaxed and there’s a slight swagger to his soft strut. He glides from cinematic melancholy to flat out, blindsiding ecstasy with the audience forever spellbound in the palm of his hand.
He ends the set with a three-song encore after demands of “one more tune” fill the venue. Caramel is the final number and when it ends, the crowd is reluctant to leave. As he bows and walks off stage, cries of “one more tune” continue to echo around the room.