John Grant has been playing shows in Ireland on an ever increasing scale since launching his solo career back in 2010. Tonight, he takes to the grandest stage yet at the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, as he continues to tour behind last October’s Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. While thoughts in advance drift to what was an undoubtedly challenging environment in which to be playing such a show, up against gargantuan competitors in the guise of Beyoncé at Croke Park and Stone Roses at Marlay Park, such reservations are swiftly dispelled on a balmy night in Dublin.
Ane Brun is an odd opening proposition, inspiring mixed but largely positive feelings. The Norwegian and her five piece backing band (cello/bass, violin/percussion, keys, guitar/keys, and drums) go about business in contrasting ways. Brun is a brash, magnetic presence, while the musicians are understated and economical. A cover of Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ perhaps doesn’t spur the response that might have been hoped for, but on a whole, an enjoyable, idiosyncratic set from an interesting artist.
Grant and band take to the stage on the stroke of 9pm and rattle through a selection from the aforementioned third LP. ‘Glacier’ is, and always will be a moment to stop you in your tracks, either on record or live, but never more so than when joined by Conor O’Brien on Saturday night. Reference is made on more than one occasion to recent troubling events in Orlando, and this lends even further weight to the performance on this occasion.
Yet it seems as though it is with the lighter, dance inflected tracks that Grant is more engaged – ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ draws a rapturous response, while the likes of ‘Snug Slacks’ and ‘Voodoo Doll’ see some serious shapes being thrown – both onstage and off. Equally though, there are wonderful trips back to the Queen of Denmark record, the likes of ‘Marz’ and the title track retaining their power at this remove.
‘GMF’ remains a cathartic delight, and lead single from Grey Tickles Black Pressure, ‘Disappointing’ is riotous fun. Grant’s band has been with him for the duration of the last two album touring cycles, and there’s a strong instinctive bond binding these five at all times – now enhanced at certain points, much to Grant’s delight with a trio of backing singers.
A marvellous if down tempo encore follows, with a solo rendition of The Czars’ ‘Drug’ plus a duo performance of ‘Caramel’. Undoubtedly more sedate than what was unfolding on much larger stages elsewhere in the city, but no less worthy for that, John Grant’s connection with Irish audiences continues to grow stronger with this wonderful show.