Monday, October 7th, 2013
London Grammar and Jaymes Young at The Great Hall in Toronto
Frank YangAs noted in my review of their debut album If You Wait, London Grammar should be commended for countering any cynicism about their sound being a little too of-the-moment – add one part Florence and one part Daughter to two parts xx, bake for 45 minutes, serve smouldering – by applying it to solid, affecting songs that should resonate with the lovelorn for years to come while still leaving plenty of room to grow. It wasn’t quite enough to make them the Mercury Prize favourites that their champions expected – they didn’t even make the shortlist – but even without that accolade, their inaugural North American tour was doing quite well, thank you very much, with Friday night’s Toronto date quickly getting the upgrade from the originally booked BLK BOX to the more spacious and appropriately elegant Great Hall upstairs.
Support came from Seattle’s Jaymes Young, who for his well-crafted and performed songs, didn’t quite manage to transcend his reference points to the same degree. The vaguely yearning vocals over echoey guitar tones with electronic flourishes sounded like a distillation of 2013 indie, and as such remained largely anonymous. And using a slow, soulful cover of Haddaway’s “What Is Love” as an audience-rallying moment was an odd move, considering that most in attendance weren’t allowed to stay up until 11:30 when The Roxbury Guys were a thing on Saturday Night Live. But maybe that was to his advantage as undoubtedly some in the audience thought the song was his own and were impressed.
New bands get a bit of leeway with regards to their effectiveness as a live act, particularly when they’ve potentially gotten swept up in a wave of buzz that might short circuit their normal development curve as performers. Happily for all involved, London Grammar didn’t need to be cut this slack. I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t bring any additional players with them as the trio of guitarist Dan Rothman, vocalist Hannah Reid, and multi-instrumentalist Dot Major set up across the front of the stage and set to recreating the space and texture of their debut with just the tools at hand – guitar, keys, and loops while occasionally turning to bongos or a drum kit for extra dynamics. The de facto visual and aural focal point of the band, Reid would get a bit showier with her vocals in pushing the melodies around – somewhat surprising given how the album seemed to make an effort to keep things in check, but such excursions were relatively modest and didn’t detract from the proceedings; if anything, they demonstrated the impressive degree of confidence with which the band were operating.
And if they didn’t come to the stage with that confidence, the audience would have given it to them. In one of their many between-song asides to the crowd, they commented on their willingness to cheer at everything – an observation which was, of course, met with cheers. Their 45-minute set encompassed most of, but not all, of If You Stay, with the pairing of “Strong” and “Metal & Dust” as a powerful closing couplet, followed by a on-the-mark cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” as an encore. A solid performance that decidedly increased my appreciation for the band.
Video: Anna Calvi – “Sing To Me”
It’s a touch late to actually act on the information, but Consequence Of Sound reports that Neil Halstead will be recording a couple of shows in London later this month on October 23 and 24 for release as a live record, and amongst the promised “special guests” will be Rachel Goswell, which means that both Slowdive and Mojave 3 move ever-so-slightly into the “active” column” but more importantly, that Goswell is healthy enough again to perform again – even if it is just for a few songs.
David Gedge has dusted off the Cinerama monicker under which he traded for several years between Wedding Present incarnations for occasional recent live shows, but has just issued the project’s first new release since 2002’s Torino with a tour-only 7″ with a new song and a live Disco Volante track recorded in 2012 – you can stream it and order the single below.