Festivals should expand the mind, present us with the unexpected. John Grant’s performance at the Payhouse did that for me. Never heard of him, didnâ€™t know what to expect – he blew me away!
The description in the official programme of â€œa rich creamy baritone with savagely barbed humourâ€ did not prepare me for the music fest that was his concert, an explosion of electronic cadences, synthpop, indie wave and new rock, with a touch of folk thrown in.
John Grant’s music has shades of Scott Walker, cadences of an upbeat Leonard Cohen, a touch of Kraftwerk. His voice glides effortlessly through the biting lyrics of his most adult and intelligent songs, while the band, the magnificent band, rock on. Thereâ€™s smoke and a lightshow- itâ€™s Stadium rock domesticated for the Playhouse.
Grant is an American with a troubled past who now lives part of the time in Reykjavik -odd how Iceland keeps cropping up in my Festival life (see Book Reviews).
Itâ€™s cultural charm is obviously conducive to creativity. He has also lived in Germany and seems to be an accomplished linguist. But itâ€™s his subtlety in English that makes his songs.
The capacity audience were obviously aficionados. They knew his music, called out for favourites, and cheered wildly at the apparent end, which wasnâ€™t the end of course, for about four more numbers were sung.
It was a one night appearance unfortunately, an absolute gem of a Festival find. Thereâ€™s a new album coming out in October called Love is Magic. Look out for it. John Grant is magic.
Playhouse Theatre one night only August 20th at 8pm