Friday, July 29, 2016

Feel the Love

The world might have seemed like a shitty place in 2016, but that has not stopped John Grant travelling its length and breadth to perform. As he says on It Doesn’t Matter To Him, “I get to sing for lovely people all over this lovely world.” And starting off in the Far East, the American singer-songwriter opened the year playing China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, moved on to a couple of shows in his home country, before dates in Europe and Scandanavia.

Lately, Grant has appeared at major British festivals such as Glastonbury, T in the Park and Latitude; all in all, he has been a busy boy. But last night at the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, a venue he first played two years ago, it felt like a homecoming. “It’s so good to be back in this amazing building,” he told us. You can have the world but sometimes you just need Art Deco architecture and an adoring audience.

Since launching a solo career in 2010 after the dissolution of alt-rock band The Czars, Grant has produced three albums worth of sumptuous ballads, emotion-drenched confessionals and stomping disco floor-fillers. On his return to the De La Warr Pavilion, last years’ Grey Tickles, Black Pressure album dominated proceedings, as it had when I saw him in Brighton last November; but there was still room for classic tracks such as Glacier and GMF from middle album, Pale Green Ghosts, and an incredible rendition of the title track from his debut, Queen of Denmark.

All of this was rapturously received by the audience who immediately responded, not only to the rich timbre of Grant’s sonorous baritone, but to the band’s accomplished sound. With a rhythm section of ex-Banshee Budgie on drums and Jakob Smári Magnússon on bass underpinning Pétur Hallgrímsson’s versatile guitar and Chris Pemberton’s virtuoso keyboards, the band radiated warmth and solidity. After an encore which included a moving version of The Czars’ song, Drug, Grant asked, “could you feel the love coming from us tonight?” We could – and it was reciprocated.

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