London Grammar were, without doubt, one of my top breakthrough bands of 2013. Their self-titled album London Grammar was a superb and one of the most emotionally evocative pieces that I have heard for many years. The strong vocals and multi-instrumental aspects of their recorded pieces were wonderful. But, on my way to the O2 Academy in Leeds, I kept an open mind as to the possibility that in a live performance they would give the audience a much flatter experience than the album.
And in a sense, this thought was entirely wrong. Going from their album, it was the complete opposite to any gig experience I’d ever had. It was restrained and potent at times and explosive and raw at others. Tone varied massively, and through the extension and reinterpretation of their own tracks they were able to create a live experience radically different from the recorded nature of their songs and from live experiences of any other band I know.
The gig can only be described as serene; there was this sense across the audience of total awe at, lead singer, Hannah Reid’s voice. For an album that had such pure lyrical work I expected some dissonance between live and recorded, but no, Hannah matches, if not, outdoes the strong vocals of the album.
This isn’t all however, while listening to the album, you never get a full sense of the technical skill of Dan Rothman, the guitarist, and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major, the drummer, synth, pianist. The guitar work outdid itself in tracks such as ‘Hey Now’, ‘Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me’ and ‘Flickers’, whilst ‘Shyer’ had an additional instrumental section where ‘Dot’ was running around the stage to apply himself to his variety of instruments. Also worth noting was the extreme inventiveness of this section, harkening back to the technical skill and use of effects of bands like Pink Floyd.
The lighting was extraordinary as well; it was warm, cold, sad, dark, light and, at one point, looked like an opening of an episode of Doctor Who. The programming and use of the venue’s lighting was extremely well-executed, matching tone and mood perfectly.
Boiling it down, it was a profoundly unusual gig. I have never seen a lack of energy in the crowd as a good thing, but that night was different. It was in admiration of London Grammar that the crowd mostly fell silent (except for the rapturous applause at the end of each song) and with their meaningful tunes, it felt almost liturgical in nature.
London Grammar clearly aim to outdo themselves in their live performances, giving audiences something they’ve never heard before. They put their absolute all into not just entertaining but astounding the audience. Hannah’s voice is beautiful and unbelievable, how she manages to consistently tour and still retain such clarity amazes me. On top of that, the spontaneous improvisation and creativity of ‘Dot’ and Dan is something that needs to be recognized.
With their energetic finish with ‘Metal and Dust’ it was easy to see why they had risen through the music ranks so quickly. Unique, powerful and awesome, it’s clear to me that London Grammar have guaranteed a long and prosperous career for themselves and as long as they continue with such performances, they’ll continue to satisfy everyone that ventures to one of their gigs.