Live Music + Gig Reviews

John Grant @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

17 June 2022

Confessional singer songwriter brings his bruised bangers, brutal perfection and self-deprecating beauty to Grace Jones’ Meltdown

John Grant playing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Grace Jones' Meltdown 2022 (Photo: Burak Cingi)

John Grant playing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Grace Jones’ Meltdown 2022 (Photo: Burak Cingi)

Grace Jones’ long-delayed Meltdown has offered up a string of memorable shows, there’s been the sex art riot of Peaches celebrating 20 years of her debut album, Sky Ferreira working everyone’s last nerve by turning up an hour late yet still beguiling her fans with a set of majestic art-pop worth missing the last train home for, the jubilant Hot Congotronics team-up of Kasai Allstars and Hot Chip, and the host herself performing with an orchestra. It’s been a blast. John Grant supported by Blancmange was not only an equally hot ticket, it was a double-bill of dreams.

On the hottest night of the year so far, when you’d imagine most of the ticket holders sacking off nursing a warming G&T in a dark and smallish auditorium for anything but, the QEH was a-brim with predominantly bearded arty futurists and enthusiasts.

Grant has long been a fan of electronic music, enthusiastically raving about the early 80s period of development that saw the oddballs barge into the mainstream. One set of such weirdos were Blancmange, who are now effectively Neil Arthur and some chums. Their debut album Happy Families celebrates its 40th anniversary later this year, and whose upcoming Private View sees them back on London Records.

Both Grant and Blancmange not only share mutual respect but also a collaborator in Benge, who was part of the Grant side-project Creep Show as well as working with Neil Arthur in Fader and as producer on the ‘mange’s last few albums. This short-but-sweet set sees Arthur barge through a handful of numbers, with new tunes nestling among classics such as Feel Me, Blind Vision and Living On The Ceiling. A tasting menu for anyone enticed by wanting to experience the full Blancmange experience when they play a fuller tour in their own right later this year.

John Grant at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Grace Jones' Meltdown 2022 (Photo: Burak Cingi)

John Grant at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Grace Jones’ Meltdown 2022 (Photo: Burak Cingi)

Having seen Grant several times – with a full band or orchestra – tonight he’s part of a stripped back multi-instrumentalist trio feeding his confessional singer songwriter catalogue into new and thrilling shapes, where the musical menu of Elton-y piano effervescence blends with Radiophonic bleeps bloops and zaps, Vangelis-y shards as well as occasional harnessed malfunction with Defender-y zoops and thwarps.

Masterfully prowling across the stage in chequerboard sliders, Grant looked relaxed and at home as he performed selections from his five critically acclaimed albums so far, sprinkling his poetic eloquence over layers of minimalist yet warm synths. He’s even throwing the odd shape these days, although this performance is free from any Steps-style coordinated choreography.

Highlights among a non-stop parade of them included the ever-transcendent Glacier; a squelching, marching Black Belt, an almost Nine Inch Nails-esque Queen of Denmark, and Touch and Go went out to Chelsea Manning and ‘all those who celebrate Pride month’ as well as a dedication to Julee Cruise on, um, The Cruise Room. A bare-knuckled Pale Green Ghosts scoured and scythed with its propulsion and energy, and Sensitive New Age Guy recalled the ‘disco rock’ of Japan in their Adolescent adolescence. Marz is taken into the jet age with an aura of elegant futurism, like a Blade Runner update of the previously Midlake assisted number. Finishing off with his always-welcome signature GMF, it’s as if we’ve witnessed John Grant’s Voyage: all the classics full of bruised bangers, brutal perfection and self-deprecating beauty.

It’s a reminder of what a treasure Grant is, and his continuing evolution is something that pays dividends each and every time.

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