There’s not so many gigs that you discuss various facets of in the bar afterwards for a few hours. It is fitting this December, however, as London Grammar are very much a band of 2013 and all discussion relates to their emergence in the last 12 months and now finally seeing them live as the year closes. Hard to categorise, they are still mainstream more by virtue of not making music out at the fringes than anything. But yet they are not radio-play darlings. Their appeal seems to be across a range of people who spend a lot of time listening to music, and what it is that appeals is somewhat elusive. Though it almost certainly begins with Hannah Reid’s voice.
As it floods through the speakers in a warm-up/build-up to ‘Hey Now’ it’s a towering thing. Her accented British correctness and open-vowel sound could be the singing voice of English-Rose-for-hire Rosamund Pike, and plays against all the squeaky, twangy voices we’re fed mostly from TV. She can even drop a barely perceived “fuck you” into the song, cloaked in her polite Trojan horse. Dan Rothman’s restrained guitar sets a lot of the mood too. Not a man for ploughing through chords, he provides a layer of dampened subtle riffs, that sometimes lean to a David-Lynchian wah wah aesthetic.
Keeping us baited through the first clutch of numbers, the band break face and talk to us about the gig being the penultimate of the tour and the Dublin crowd wanting to give a good impression rise up. Ah yes, a young adored band play their first club gig in our capitol. You could collectively feel the crowd edging to make this a great one for them, and for us, as the rising tide lifts all ships. Hannah tells us she’ll be picking out her favourite audience member later, which just boosts it all.
Dot Major is keeping the rhythm section going as well as adding his gentle piano layers. He drops to a drumkit for when ‘Nightcall’ falls into its beat, perfectly picking the right parts to bring to live drums. Reid asks for help singing ‘Strong’ and doesn’t need to ask twice, handing over the chorus to the crowd on occasion, everyone giving it a lash, closing in epic cheering for ourselves, the band and sure everyone really.
Before she picks her favourite audience member, some people on the balcony are already pointing out the likely candidate and she has chosen the same – a guy lost completely in the gig. Enough time to fit in their Massive Attack moment, ‘Metal & Dust’, Reid’s voice sailing high over the familiar pulse.
‘Wicked Game’ as an encore denies us a punchy original song to close and in less than an hour we’re done. Finally seeing them act it out in front of us left many thoughts around the table. Reid is clearly a stunning looking girl, black and white press shots pitching her as a Lauren Bacall for the age, yet when styling herself it’s in high-waisted stonewashed jeans, sneakers and a boxy mohair jumper, hair up. She looks like a girl on her way back from dance class and it seems finally, a 23 year old girl is not trying to be anything else for anyone else. No letters from Sinead O’Connor heading her way.
As befitting a young band learning on the job, there are some moments where some sounds don’t work live and perhaps the addition of a separate drummer would give them time to re-explore these songs live. Also ‘Flickers’ is a weak link and could be replaced by a handful of others but these are issues for another day. Another tour.
Not sheened beyond human, they still carried it so well live and tonight in Dublin the sold-out crowd had their back. A sweet symbiotic moment where you know you were in the right city, on the right night and at the right gig.