Gig review: John Grant, Edinburgh

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JOHN Grant is one of those blessed songwriters who can turn heads with just a phrase – generally colloquial, often witty, sometimes vicious and occasionally naughty – while beguiling with a beautiful melody and heart-wrenching delivery.

Queens Hall


Two albums into his solo career, he already bears comparison with his peers Rufus Wainwright, Antony Hegarty and Stephin Merritt.

In performance, he was a master storyteller, immediately engaging with his evocative snapshots of the pleasure and pain of love. It didn’t hurt that everyone in the audience was hanging on to every syllable, but there was an innate confidence and purpose in a delivery that could suck in a listener at a hundred paces. Grant himself admitted to feeling the lyrics anew, concluding, with characteristic candour, that they made him feel like “an a*****e”.

Although Grant excels at musical intimacy, he is also a playful arranger. Occasionally he would turn to a keyboard and unleash a knowingly squelchy analogue synth salvo, utterly secure in its curveball impact, or involve his Icelandic backing band in the new wave disco of Sensitive New Age Guy and clubby judder of Ernest Borgnine, a funky little number about being diagnosed HIV positive.

The band really came into their own with the cinematic backing of Pale Green Ghosts and electro-gothic brooding of Why Don’t You Love Me, while regular accompanist Chris Pemberton almost stole the show with his monumental keyboard codas to It Doesn’t Matter To Him and Glacier. But the glory belongs to Grant for penning such a mighty set.