John Grant live at De La Warr Pavillion
Gary Page checked out American singer-songwriter, John Grant in Bexhill:
Last summer I witnessed John Grant play live in a Brighton church and while it was a strangely surreal venue for the artist to be performing in, the night was truly stunning. The mood however was dampened considerably when hours later fans heard from Grant, via his Twitter feed, appealing for his laptop to be returned after a despicable character had stolen it from the stage post-concert.
Maybe he was wary of returning to the west side of Sussex too soon? Who knows, but a songwriter and performer of Grant’s caliber putting on a show in a sleepy East Sussex coastal dwelling is Bexhill’s gain, and a real coup for the town’s excellent De La Warr Pavillion.
Opening with a stripped back version of You Don’t Have To emphasised the brutally honest, dark humoured lyrics that pervade the Colorado born songwriter’s songs. He deservedly received a rapturous reception and quickly switched to piano to perform the gorgeous Marz from the critically acclaimed debut album Queen of Denmark.
Grant’s follow up album Pale Green Ghosts, released last year to further plaudits, focused more on his love of electronic music with songs slathered in beats, bleeps and synthesiser pads. Mid-set, Grant and his band launched with gusto into the more dance orientated tunes from that record. This move influenced sections of the Bexhill crowd to get their feet tapping and hearts beating slightly faster. Grant even gave an airing to rarely played B-side That’s the Good News which was dedicated to his occasional collaborator Sinead O’Connor who apparently adores the track. I personally would have preferred another track from the majestic Queen of Denmark but this is just nitpicking of a highly enjoyable section of the gig.
The true highlight of the evening was a stunning performance of Pale Green Ghost‘s closing track Glacier. Written, and dedicated to the struggle against homophobia, tonight Grant dedicated the track to anyone of any gender or sexual orientation who faces some kind of struggle in life.
I always knew the song was beautiful and I must admit I was counting down the minutes expectantly for this track to be played. Tonight it really struck a cord with me and connected with times in my life when people (all be it well-meaning most of the time) have told me that the life I am living isn’t quite cutting it. The track was complimented by Grant’s impressive band who turned the track’s closing moments into a maelstrom of emotion and created the biggest cheer of the night as the song drew to a close.
The night ended on a high with an encore of two standout tracks from Queen of Denmark; Sigourney Weaver and Caramel. Then it was time for Grant to say farewell to the adoring De La Warr crowd, but not before a sweet, acoustic cover of Abba’s Angel Eyes.
John Grant proved himself again to be one of American’s finest songwriters and performers. After an hour-and-a-half of soul-baring and raw emotion not once did the performance seem over indulgent or self-absorbed. It is a credit to Grant’s warmth and humility as a man that he can effortlessly shine while touching on such bleak and personal subject matter.
John Grant live review by Gary Page, photo courtesy of Scott O’Brien.