JOHN GRANTGrand Central Hall 11/9/21
Liverpool loves JOHN GRANT. Or at least those who were wise enough to go to tonight’s magical gig at Grand Central Hall do. And he loves Liverpool, exclaiming before the encore, “It’s such an honour to be in your beautiful city.” And why wouldn’t he love us when he’s greeted with such adulation and warmth.
The faded splendour of the old Methodist Grand Central Hall suits the tone of the gig: the wedgewood coloured ornate ceiling and the backdrop of the organ affords it a grandeur and magic that befits Grant’s imposing voice and stage presence. Tonight comes after an inevitable postponement due to pandemic restrictions. It means, however, that the audience has had time to become familiar with his newest album, the Cate Le Bon produced Boy from Michigan, an autobiographical and introspective look at what has created his identity.
The majority of tonight’s set is from this current offering. Just So You Know opens the evening. It’s a beautiful, sentimental balladic track which creates a feeling of melancholia and shows the purity of Grant’s voice. The pace of the newer songs is somewhat slower than on his earlier synth-heavy and more electronic rock influenced albums but they are balanced out by explosions of punchy delivery and thrumming guitar on Black Belt, Pale Green Ghosts, and the final song of the night, GMF, on which he sings filth so beautifully.
He’s an engaging performer and storyteller whose tales hit a universal nerve meaning we share his sorrow and joy – The Cruise Room is beguiling and raw. His warm, rounded baritone voice fills the hall, the clarinet accompaniment adding to the poignancy of the tale. On the flip-side he is a very funny man. There’s just the right amount of silly – some nifty moves, the odd wry smile, and a nod to the crowd signalling he knows he’s boss as the stagehand runs on to put a little orange figure (a dinosaur, John?) back in its place on one of the keyboards. He’s self-aware and in on the joke, blithely stating as he balances himself precariously at a keyboard that he had a Steinway piano the previous evening in Gateshead before telling us that he’s “spoilt”, adding a trademark expletive for good measure.
Grant and his accompanying musicians are a talented trio. The sounds they create with their voices and synths verge on eerie and reverberate around the expanses of the domed hall. Everyone leaves feeling just that little bit better about the world than when they arrived, aided by the audience participation on a spirited rendition of GMF.
Why John Grant isn’t selling out massive arenas is a mystery, although you can’t help but feel glad he’s not. This is an intimate gig in a delightful venue with those who know and love him. The rest of you have definitely missed out on a wonderful night.