In the space of a week or so I have seen (or should that be ‘heard’?) three of my favourite current vocalists: Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Roddy Woomble and now John Grant. Like Mr Garvey, being of a certain ‘stature’ gives John Grant a tremendous power, a resonance and richness which of course others already knew marked out his work in The Czars but which I never got to until I heard his solo Queen of Denmark. An exceptional and special voice which so many of the flighty manufactured ‘stars’ can only dream of.
St George’s is another excellent venue and well suited to his sort of intimate music. I was intrigued to see how Sea of Bees, the ‘nom de chanson’ of Julie Baenziger from Sacramento, would work out in a live setting. Songs for the Ravens is an album that has surprised me; initially it didn’t make much of a mark but bit by bit you end up with its tunes running through your head. Ms B does have remarkable voice, thrown into greater prominence in this most stripped back of settings. When singing she goes to another place, oblivious to those around her but once the song is over she suddenly sees the audience and at her own admission, a level of awkwardness takes over. Mrs HC found her discomfort slightly annoying, I chose to find it charming and endearing. Either way, here are songs worth discovering, their slightly off kilter nature marking her out as much more than your run of the mill songstress.
Mr Grant was accompanied by just one musician whose name I have forgotten (sorry!) a grand Steinway piano and two little synths. I confess to not having taken down the set order but it seemed remarkably like the one from Gateshead. Of course many like me came to hear the songs from Queen of Denmark, which I have played to death this last year. But for me I was taken aback by the numbers he played from The Czars days; Drug, LOS, and Little Pink House. LOS in particular was outstanding but the aching poignancy of the last one brought a tear to the eye.
I realise that he must do it nightly but the backstories around the songs made them even richer and he managed to make you feel that he genuinely was pleased to be with you for the evening.
Authenticity has preoccupied me of late and here is another artist who is doing what he really loves to do and seems grateful for the opportunity to do it, not taking it for granted. Not that we should expect ever thankful artists but those who combine their talent with some level of self awareness allow themselves to connect at a deeper level with their audience than can those enmeshed in their own hype and publicity.