Sunday, April 2, 2017

Great Grandaddy

Jason Lytle seems a little grumpy: the leader of Californian alt-rock band Grandaddy isn't making much eye contact and he dismisses the audience's early attempts to engage him between songs with a curt, "we've got to get to know each other first." And standing behind his keyboard, which acts as a barrier squarely set centre stage and front, you would be forgiven for sensing an air of detachment; at one point he squats down and, still playing his guitar, completely disappears from view for a couple of minutes.

No matter; the music was outstanding at Concorde 2 in Brighton last night: the band's sound was full and rich and the selection of songs stretched from their debut album, Under the Western Freeway, to this year's Last Place. But it was two of the albums in between - The Sophtware Slump and Sumday - that provided tracks greeted most ecstatically by the crowd. Openers Hewlett's Daughter and The Crystal Lake prompted instant singalongs and, after an interlude of new material, He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot enthused those there for trademark Grandaddy songs of grandiose emotional sweep, and Now It's On had the crowd bouncing along to its anthemic chug.

The new album, their first since the band split in 2006 before reforming again in 2012 to play some live dates, picks up where the band left off. Some reviews have levelled this as a criticism but I think the new material is excellent. Four of the stand-out tracks - The Way We Won't, Evermore, I Don't Wanna Live Here Anymore and The Boat is in The Barn - were aired last night. The latter, a heartbreaking tale of lost love - "getting rid of all of me is what I figured, delete deleting everything that had occurred, that's when I backed away and headed out without a word" - was one of two encores and the other, reflecting the twenty-year spread of material, was 1997's Summer Here Kids.

With a back projection of slow-filmed natural and industrial landscapes rolling throughout the set, it was a visual as well as sonic treat. And as the set wore on and Lytle's mood improved, it was clear that problems off-stage had been the cause. Whether it was the early curfew - he bemoaned the fact that Concorde 2 turns into "some sort of disco fuckfest" when the band have finished - or that something had been "fucked up", was not clear; but whatever it was, he was keen to reassure us that we "had been great." As had they.

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