Grimes blew the crowd away with an electric, energetic and at times exhilarating set at Rock City on Tuesday night. Nottingham was the third stop on the UK leg of her AC!D Reign tour, and her fans were out in force, filling the venue to the brim.
Support was provided by mysterious Montana-native HANA. Bookended on stage by pretty illuminated paper parasols, HANA stood alone in front of her synth and charmed her way into the hearts of the audience with her gorgeously ethereal voice and beautiful melodies layered on complex beats. Being such a new artist, her set was short and sweet, only featuring six songs – but each one burned bright with promise and highlighted her talent. “Underwater”, a song which had come out that day, was particularly compelling, as was her interesting cover of the Eurhythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again”. All in all her set was engaging and by its end she had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.
As the crowd impatiently waited for Grimes they were teased with the sound of baroque chamber music and opera, which only heightened their excitement. Finally, after much chanting and restlessness Grimes came out and the crowd went wild. Looking slight and delicate, her colourful pink hair swept up in a kawaii red headband and neon orange sweatbands flashing on each wrist, no one was sure what to expect from Grimes. But what they got was an absolute tour de force, a burst of riotous energy that lasted all the way through her high octane one and a half hour set.
She kicked off with one of her best known tracks, “Genesis”, and from that moment on she was in full performance mode. Along with two dancers, and sweetly enough, HANA (who was an integral part of the set, singing backup vocals and dancing), Grimes gave a masterclass in how to do a live show. There was singing. There was incredible dancing. And the crowd loved every second of it.
Grimes treated everyone to some of her best songs from her most recent album Art Angels, including “REALiTi”, “Venus Fly” and “Butterfly”. She even did an incredible Russian version (the original is in Mandarin) of “SCREAM”, where her piercing howls and screams in the chorus reverberated powerfully throughout the room. When performing the lead single from Art Angels, “Flesh without Blood”, she stepped away from the electronic synth and brought out a guitar, adding a new dimension to an already brilliant song.
In her live performance the crowd was able to see different facets of Grimes’ personality – when she performed the controversial “Go” she showed the side of her that doesn’t care about what people expect from her. On the other hand, when she debuted her track “World Princess Pt II” for the first time live, we saw a down-to-earth version of Grimes when she forgot the lyrics but still carried on like a trooper.
It was clear from the outset that Grimes cares deeply about her fans and about making a connection to them through her performance, and the fans loved her back judging by their reaction on the night. Grimes was loving it, frequently saying “here I’d ask you guys to dance, but you’re already dancing!” It was like she couldn’t quite believe her luck, like she couldn’t believe that everyone was so excited to see her.
Her final track of the evening (she called it an encore but then said she didn’t like encores and was just going to play it) “Kill V Maim” swept everyone into a frenzy and was a fitting end to a brilliant evening of music.
All in all, Grimes took Rock City to another level with her exhilarating performance and refusal to play it safe. With the gig taking place on International Women’s Day, it was incredibly empowering to see an all-female show. Both acts are totally in charge of their music, of their look and of all aspects of their output and it was so amazing to see them live and for them to share that with everyone.