After Sunday night seeing one of my favourite old bands, Steely Dan, at the O2 Arena at the Dome, it was the turn of one of my recent favourites, London Grammar, at the O2 Brixton Academy. I am not sponsored by O2!
London Grammar’s first album, “If You Wait”, has five or six songs that I play frequently. There’s little better for melancholy beauty, encapsulated in the affecting vocals of Hannah Reid. “Strong”, “Wasting my Young Years” and “If you Wait”, in particular, are truly moving pieces. The 2017 follow up, “Truth is a Beautiful Thing”, is a shoo-in for my annual top ten, and songs like the total track, “Hell to the Liars” and “Rooting for You” are up there with the aforementioned trio.
I’m glad to say all those songs (except “If You Wait”) made it into last night’s set. It was a good mix of tunes from both albums, obviously with a bit more emphasis on the new release. The crowd in a sold-out Brixton Academy was enthusiastic about old and new, and had a great rapport with the band, even though they were shrouded in darkness or a half light much of the time.
Possibly the most captivating show from Glastonbury that I’ve ever seen was London Grammar on the John Peel stage in 2014. There was a sparse, atmospheric quality about the songs which was truly moving. With Hannah, of course, at the centre of it, with that beautiful sadness in her singing. Last night didn’t quite capture that feeling, maybe because it was more of a celebration – and I was standing in a big crowd, with people bobbing about, talking, getting drinks. No complaints about that – that’s what live concerts are like. A shared celebration. But you lose a bit of that stillness, which is so integral to the band’s sound and persona.
So, the wonderful “Strong” became a crowd singalong, Hannah greeting all parts of the crowd. That’s fame for you! My highlight was “Rooting for You”. Hannah sat down, in front of a large glowing orange circle, and explained how sitting helped her hit the high notes – and they go high! – in that song. She talked briefly about how writing the song with her colleagues helped her pull through a difficult time for her, when she got stage fright and couldn’t perform. That set the context for the performance – fragile but uplifting. And when Hannah hit those notes the crowd cheered like they do for a great sax solo at a jazz concert. Celebration.
Three songs in, we went on a brilliant journey through “Wasting my Young Years”, “Stay Awake”, “Hell to the Liars”, “Truth is a Beautiful Thing” and “Hey Now”. All in my London Grammar top ten. What’s not to like? Excellent encore too, starting with “Bones and Ribbon” and then two of the more strident songs – by London Grammar standards – “Oh Woman Oh Man” and “Metal and Dust”. Just writing this, I’m thinking I want to see this again! Ah, maybe they’ll do Latitude in 2018. They’d be perfect headlining the BBC Music stage on Sunday night.
We can but hope…