As I reflect on my experience finally seeing John Grant at Rock City, I am honestly still lost for words. Grant was dramatic, eccentric and commanding; a true virtuoso.
Arriving a little after 8:30, I grabbed myself a Red Stripe and found myself a suitable spot at the front. Although the cluster of over excited 40 year olds that surrounded me were slightly distracting, it was not long before the force that is John Grant entered the stage, sporting an all-black ensemble spiced up with Bowie-esc glittery face paint.
Grant commenced with “Tempest”, the perfect entrance number as it eased the crowd into his newer, more techno pieces though still encompassing his deep, intense vocal. “Tempest” was followed by “Grey Tickles, Black Pressure”, a tale of sadness, pain and fundamentally, frustration. This emotional number created a strong crowd-performer connection; Grant seemed overwhelmed by the love he was receiving.
Grant’s renditions of tracks off ‘Queen of Denmark’, such as “TC & Honeybear” and “JC Hates Faggots”, demonstrated his ferocious, dominating vocals, though there was a beautiful, delicateness that could only be experienced live. These slower, dramatic numbers gave Rock City’s light display a chance to show off, as we saw in the explosion of white light that occurred as JG crashed down on the keyboard. Though the stage was filled with drums, a guitar and a bass, the keyboard was certainly, and as assumed, the shining instrument. Possibly four different keyboards were played throughout the evening, one being in the form of a Keytar which Grant vivaciously played. John managed to personify the instruments he played, whether that being dancing with his Keytar or seductively hitting what I believe to be a Cowbell. It was quite masterful!
In the latter half of the gig, Grant performed some new theatrical tracks such as “Metamorphis” and “Diet Gum”. Though both songs had an electronic, synthesized dance feel to them, “Metamorphis” is more theatrical and robotic, and feels like an explosion of different characters. Differing from “Diet Gum”, which although sounds like it’s being narrated by an angsty American teen, the song and performance was incredibly charming and humorous, and again, very electronic. Though I personally find John Grant’s earlier repertoire more impactful, it was rousing to see the crowd’s warmth and excitement to the idiosyncrasies in his recent work, particularly as he has recently stated that “Each record I make is more of an amalgamation of who I am”.
The showstopper of the night was most certainly “GMF”, performed in the encore. “GMF” reached out to those also feeling like the “underdog, of course”, though still feeling that they are the “greatest motherfucker that you’re ever gonna meet”. As the song drew to a close, Grant reiterated his disbelief at the incredible energy and love that the crowd were emitting. The entire performance superbly blended the old and the new, and handsomely celebrated the thoughts and behaviours of those feeling like an outcast.