Went to see John Grant at my favourite music venue in Melbourne, for a night of exquisite balladry and funky grooves. Forum was only maybe two thirds full, which was enough for a good atmosphere while also making it very easy to move around. I started the concert second row from the stage before deciding that the sound was kinda abysmal there, with the vocals getting lost in the mix, and moved further away which improved things significantly. Because the floor wasn’t packed like sardines in the can, it was easy to move to quieter spots whenever people around me got annoying. People who talk non-stop, loudly, at a music concert are only one step above the people who blab during the movie, in my book.
This was my first John Grant concert and it was fantastic. His gorgeous, wonderfully controlled baritone is absolutely magical to listen to live, and as a performer he’s just as funny and entertaining (and sweary) as his lyrics suggest. He might look like a bearded truck driver, but the guy can dance up a storm, as he did during the funky uptempo numbers, shimmying and shaking his booty like there’s no tomorrow. Grant made a lovely comment about how he always felt a connection to Australia and the Australian film and music; musicians say this “so happy to be here” stuff all the time but this felt genuine – especially when he namechecked Chrissy Amphlett and said that the yodelling touch his singing sometimes has was inspired by her. He was backed by a full band, including two Icelanders, judging by their something-son last names, which makes sense since I think that’s where he’s based now. The setlist was dominated by the recent album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, and I really enjoyed the songs from the previous record, Pale Green Ghosts, that for some reason I never got around to listening. My beloved Queen of Denmark, Grant’s debut which made me a fan, was represented by three songs, but they were the best ones from that album. I don’t cry or get a tickling sensation all that often at live gigs, but hearing Marz almost did that; there are few songs that hit me emotionally as much, even though the lyrics are just basically listing various flavours at a sweets shop. I guess it’s the childlike innocence of the song that really gets to me. And Caramel, which is one of the most beautiful love songs ever, was a perfect way to close the encore.