A last minute opportunity arose to catch one of my favourite current bands. Could they transpose their haunting sound from album to stage?
Date: January 31, 2014
Venue: Rock City
Despite London Grammar’s London HQ, this gig feels like a homecoming for both the band and the sold out crowd due to the fact that they formed at the University of Nottingham.
Their founder is guitarist Dan Rothman, who recruited drummer and percussionist Dot Major and singer/keyboardist Hannah Reid to create an elegiac electronica three piece.
Hannah is the fulcrum of the band, a beautiful and elegant yet shy and apologetic young woman whose velveteen voice is stunning.
She’s a woman that girls want to be and guys want to be with. Around her, Dan and Dot pin together sparse arrangements with a delicately plucked guitar and adroit technical wizardry.
With an expectant, welcoming crowd awaiting them, London Grammar step onto the stage to cacophonous noise. Without introduction, a tinkering piano riff ushers in Hannah’s distinctive tones as she embarks on a touch of vocal showboating as new single Hey Now swirls into action.
Reverb-heavy and echoic, her voice is crystal clear, her range astounding, and her larynx not even stretched as she demonstrates the song’s tricky highs and lows.
“This is a very special show for us”, Hannah imparts, and there are times when she appears a little nervous. Her posture between songs – hands clenched together in front of her, fingers running through her cascading blonde hair – suggests this gig is a big deal.
The band do pathos very well, and the icy ode to a misspent youth, Wasting My Young Years, is testimony to that. It’s a cautionary tale of falling in love at such a tender age; a deeply personal song with heart wrenching lyrics carried by a thudding beat.
Flickers has an almost afrobeat essence to it, and dazzles in a web of spidery strobe lights as the cruscendo trip-hops around a dream-pop vibe, while Sights is Florence and the Machine with programmed beats and a string section.
Their cover of Kavinsky’s Nightcall is like Adele frozen in ice, thawed, and then wired to the mains. It maybe a cliche, but they make it their own. And in some style.
Strong, their best charting single to date, is special. It’s a song that demands attention. The crowd sing along with Hannah’s baritone verse, but are quickly outshone by her searching, saddened vocals as the song plays out a self-deprecating missive which is beyond graceful.
In the encore, Rothman cannot hide is excitement, telling the crowd that this sold-out show is something he never imagined before Hannah’s ghostly rendition of If You Wait.
They end with Metal and Dust, a culmination of all their components. Hannah is enveloped in a squall of noise as Dot pummels a drum kit to construct a chaotic maelstrom of drum and bass during an intergalactic laser light show of epic proportions.
This band transcend the zeitgeist and offer something fresh and quixotic. Their base maybe in London, but for tonight’s crowd, this was a home win.