I discovered Grandaddy in Borders in 1997. I used to pop into the shop to smell the coffee, peruse the books and check out the random selection of CDs chosen to stick on the listening posts: multiple sets of headphones on every aisle. Maybe the strange puppet in headphones on the cover of Under The Western Freeway reminded me of myself, or maybe I was instantly sucked in by the odd collection of high-contrast sounds surrounding Jason Lytle's mournful falsetto. When I bought the CD, on a whim, I certainly don't think I was expecting to be jumping up and down to my favourite track from the album, 'A.M. 180', 20 years later. You see, Grandaddy were never that big of a deal, back in the day. There were certainly a lot more people championing The Sophtware Slump a couple of years down the line but, for a long time, I was the only person I knew who knew their début, and I listened to it a lot.
Seadog turn in a noteworthy performance as the main support. It's close to an all new line-up for local songwriter Mark Benton, and to my ears this is the best Seadog yet, sounding lush with a renewed confidence. Tracks from the much-loved Transmitter EP sound full-bodied and classy, while some new songs, with quite an Americana twinge to them, go down a treat. I can't wait to see where they go next: with this bunch of players and that batch of songs it could be very far indeed.
Tonight is a true triumph for Jason Lytle's group Grandaddy. One that pairs the comfort of nostalgia with the heart-warming knowledge that sometimes time can be kind. This isn't a half-arsed slog through half-remembered hits for the devotees: Grandaddy are touring a new album, Last Place, and it's arguably their best work yet. The 22 year-old stood next to me, who knew every word of the new ones, would certainly agree. Although the band only play a handful of these ('Way We Won't', 'Evermore', 'I Don't Wanna Live Here Anymore' and 'The Boat Is In The Barn') they are striking: they fit in and they stand out. The melodies are catchy, with the dichotomy between colourful sounds and dark, sad themes working its spell on me just as effectively as it did on that first listen.
Behind the low-lit band we saw projections of great expansive American landscapes: low-quality, shaky-hand-cam footage that had been annotated with jittery, subtle animations. Those landscapes are probably mundane to those that experience them everyday but, to many that distant world, home to so many songs, seems mystical. The band create such magic from mixing simple and disparate elements: the fuzzy, distorted guitar power chords of grunge with circuit-bent computer-game synth sounds. This lent modernity to their old fashioned folksy-melancholia and it's a set of sounds that has aged very well, as evidenced by how fresh the new album comes across, when really it is simply recycling, or perhaps perfecting, old approaches. The live sound is fantastic tonight, just like the recordings only bigger and better: exactly what you want. Lytle's vocal sounding other-worldly as ever; is he using some sort of phaser, or does he just sound like that? Well, to answer that might just spoil the trick.
But things could have been very different tonight. I hear later on that Grandaddy's guitarist had quit the band earlier in the tour, putting this comeback in jeopardy. It's lucky for us and them that 'Goldenboy' Shon Sullivan (and it's Elliott Smith who gave him that nickname) had stepped up to fill in lead guitar duties. You wouldn't have noticed as there wasn't a note out of place and his guitar tone was perfection. The band returned after a short break with a two song encore of 'The Boat Is In The Barn' and another classic from Under The Western Freeway. 'Summer Here Kids' got us jumping and singing along again, leaving the show smiling and satisfied.