Concerts are the best. The absolute, without a doubt, best. And after you’ve been to a variety of shows, festivals, bars, lounges, and arenas, you begin to appreciate the performances that truly stand out. The ones that make your jaw drop or your skin tingle—the ones that make you shut your eyes tight and fall into the epic immediacy of live sound.
A group of young Brits, London Grammar are just on the verge of “known.” They were introduced to me as a down-tempo Florence and the Machine, which I still find totally accurate. Stunning and intense vocals by Hannah Reid, synthy space sounds and electronic drums by the dreamy Dot Major, and quiet, controlled guitar licks by Dan Rothman make up this promising group.
Their album, If You Wait, is my favorite album of late 2013. Driving, night-walking, low-key house music, something romantic—their songs manage to fit almost every mood. The vocals are a torrent unto themselves and evoke tender squishy places in the heart and the cold, clear conscience of the mind.
Again at The Independent, and again with a belly full of burrito, I was beside myself to see the live act. Reid had recently undergone wisdom tooth removal (so young!) and was on a visible amount of Vicodin for the recovery, which she explained in full detail to the rapt crowd after taking a brief, mid-set break. So, in short, she was not at her absolute best.
Such things happen at shows, and I can say that even pumped full of Western medicine, mouth aching, Reid killed every single note. She did not wail endlessly but rather performed with precision and grace, hardly opening her mouth yet uttering the full power of her vocal capabilities.
In comparison to King Krule, London Grammar actually felt a bit green. They attempted to reproduce a complex sound with only three people, which sometimes meant Dot Major was playing keyboard bass lines while smashing a drum set. It may have looked awkward, but the sound itself was clear. They did not have King Krule’s languid, unflinching stagger, but the power of their music was inspiring to hear live.
They were also chatty folk, which I have come to love in live sets. I know the austere, no excess words, music-is-the-only-thing musicians take themselves very seriously, but the audience loves an honest connection through dialogue, too.
London Grammar’s cover of Drive’s theme-song “Nightcall” was specifically impressive. The album version is beyond amazing, and the depth of their sound was really utilized on stage. The boys grooved steadily, pounding against a drum pad, heavy keys and reverb soaked guitar. Reid saved her voice for this one and she uttered some soul-rending screams that made my eyes mist and heart flutter.
I cannot wait for their next album, and for the next time they come through my area. Be sure to see them live whenever they magically appear! The pond is quite the lake to cross, so Californians go check their tour dates ASAP. Tickets won’t be cheap for long–they are quickly rising stars.
Highlights: Nightcall, Stay Awake (so, so good!), and Flickers.
Video: London Grammar – Nightcall (Official Video)