I needed to see this show. John Grant opening for Elbow at the Commodore on May 23 meant that I had a ticket in my hand long before I’d even heard whether or not I’d being giving coverage. Grant’s video for “GMF” made it to number four on Vancouver Weekly’s “Best Music Videos of 2013” list for an excellent reason: it’s excellent. Crack it open in another tab, and give it a watch. And when you’ve finished your fifteenth time through and have the song imprinted in your head, come on back for a rundown of the show.
Grant began with “You Don’t Have To”, off his latest album, Pale Green Ghosts, after a modest introduction of himself and his Icelandic solo guitarist. The song was an introduction to what his set was going to be: short and acoustic, omitting much of his avant-garde electronic tunes. It was a tailored show, clipped to compliment Elbow, making room for an intimate ballad-thick beginning for potential Grant fans.
His heavy voice and exposing lyrics quieted the crowd. The evils of heartbreak, hatred at the end of a bottle, homosexuality, and unfathomable injustice scratch the surface of his work with raw honesty to drive the point home. His voice even and resounding kept building to a point where I kept wondering when Midlake was going to join in. He finished the baby set with “Queen of Denmark”, a vocally and rhythmically intense ballad that deserved its cover by Sinéad O’Connor.
The thing is, John Grant was just so normal, up there in his collared shirt and jeans. Hell, I might have seen him on the way into the Commodore; he was buying a Mountain Dew and some Ruffles. He performed six excellent songs, then left the stage. There was no edge or stark showmanship, no gimmick. Jury’s out on John Grant live, but I’ll be back for the next show.
Elbow began in high gear: two violins, synth/percussion, the keys, drummer, guitarist and of course front man, Guy Garvey, a full service instrumental parade. The sold out crowd was charged and shouting. I would say screaming, but I don’t think a crowd of that age screams. Watching a middle-aged crowd get excited about live music is a super nice thing to see. A loud younger couple neighbouring me even got reprimanded by a white-haired mom who requested that their “conversation be moved elsewhere.” Awesome.
The set list was an expected blend of fan favourites. The sold out crowd was sated and loving every minute. Elbow satisfied their adoring fans in touring their latest album (their first to top the charts), The Taking off and Landing of Everything, and put on a polished performance. Aside from the discomfort I felt from Garvey’s lack of a mic stand, I think being in a pumped up crowd of ma’s and pa’s couldn’t have been cooler.