John Grant – Brighton Dome – 29th October 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Since the dissolution of The Czars, John Grant has been steadily moving further down an electro lane with each new release. This year’s Creep Show side-project record was no anomaly, as last month’s Love Is Magic proved. Tonight’s return to Brighton is a celebration of his continued ability to balance devastating electro beats with his smooth, almost classic soft rock style. It may take the audience a little while to loosen those limbs, but by the night’s climax they are all eating out of his hand.

Opening with the synth explosion of ‘Tempest’, in front of a suitably retro computer graphic visual, before the more traditional Grant fare of ‘Love Is Magic’, the tone is set for a night that swings wildly between futuristic and traditional. Grant, his voice as rich as ever, pinballs between mic and keyboard, obviously enjoying his continued deep dive into electronica. Though his three preceding albums get moments in the limelight, including an early stunning version of Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’s title track, attention is firmly in the here and now.

The combination of ‘Smug Cunt’ and ‘Preppy Boy’ are captivating, even including a keytar moment (seriously, does any instrument get a wilder cheer when it is wheeled out?) Despite the banging nature of it, the pounding house beat of the latter finds a crowd strangely motionless. Though they are widely appreciative in between each track, there is a slight air of “We don’t quite know what you’re doing or what to do about it, but we love it” in the room. ‘Metamorphosis’ is no less odd live tonight than on record, before the tempo slows in perfect harmony with heightened emotions.

Pale Green Ghosts was the first Grant record to really break through into the mainstream, and tonight proves that its effect remains strong amongst the faithful. His voice during ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’ is strong and heavy enough to carve a new face into Mount Rushmore, while the slow motion rush of that album’s title track finally gets feet moving around the Dome. “Play it again!” goes a cry from the crowd. Following that, a highly emotional rendition of ‘Glacier’, provoking more than a few muffled sobs from the room. A magnet for the eyes, despite the phenomenal touring band that he has around him, Grant’s performance is phenomenal.

The ‘emotional whiplash’ (as he phrases it) continues. The hilariously bitchy ‘Queen Of Denmark’ merges perfectly into ‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’ with the greatest of ease, a feat that he and the band master all night long. A lengthy encore ensues, highlighted as always with ‘Gmf, the track that encapsulates everything so special about this artist. A magic night indeed.

Jamie Macmillan

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