This all happened last Tuesday. Yes, I know that’s a while ago, but I’ve been very busy at (almost) voluntary work, compounded by the fact I am writing this rubbish whilst afflicted by a chest infection. Granted, it’s a minor ailment for me, but if a person with a normal constitution had it they’d be in an oxygen tent under 24 surveillance in hospital by now. I just hope you appreciate the physical sacrifice I make to write a blog that a couple of people read.
So, John Grant. Most of you know what I think of John Grant (see Who’s John Grant?https://ruralspaceman.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/who-is-john-grant/ ) having seen him earlier in the year at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. But when the opportunity arose to see him with a full orchestra, well, I couldn’t let that one go. Lady Barton St Mary agreed to accompany me.
Now this was the sort of concert ideally arranged for middle aged couples. John would be starting at 7.30pm on the dot, no support, no intermission and all done and dusted by 9.20pm. Almost 2 solid hours of John Grant followed by some reflection on a wonderful musical experience over an Indian meal.
He opened with ‘You Don’t Have To’, the band split between front of stage with the rhythm section on a balcony behind the orchestra. I’d intended to write down the set list on my ticket, but it was very dark and the resulting list was just a smudged mess of hieroglyphics.
Of course, for me, every song was brilliant. Listening to John Grant is like eating the most delicious toffee ever, with a hint of chilli. The orchestra added some extra depth, but occasionally struggled to fit in. They came into their own with a soaring, sinister, brooding overture for ‘Pale Green Ghosts’, making the hairs on the back of my teeth stand to attention.
In fact, The Royal Northern Sinfonia fitted in perfectly with John’s dark, velvety baritone.
There were a couple of surprises, including ‘That’s The Good News’ from Queen of Denmark, with John’s rather accurate accent and ‘JC Hates Faggots’, his homage to religious tolerance. Or otherwise. Plus the beautiful ‘Fireflies’, which usually starts the tears flowing, like a few of his songs. Don’t tell Lady BSM.
There were also a couple of new songs: Geraldine Page and No More Tangles. Yes, he did name it after the shampoo, with the lyrics referring to No More Tears and Gee, Your Hair Looks Great (is this really the name of an American shampoo?) The lyrics were classic John Grant:
‘No more tangles, no more tears, no more reindeer games with narcissistic queers…’
John managed an encore, which seemed inevitable, since the whole of the orchestra stayed exactly where they were, hoping nobody would notice.
The crowd were in raptures. After the show, Lady BSM commented that although John Grant may not be universally famous, his fans are amongst the most devoted you could imagine. It’s also true to say that The Bristol Colston Hall’s audience contained every version of gay man (and woman) you could imagine. Big bearded ones (mainly men), small bearded ones, jackets and coats and trousers in bright, garish colours but with impeccable taste, one of the reasons John Grant gigs are so enjoyable.
As we made our way through the lashing rain towards the bright lights of the Indian restaurant, Lady BSM made the valid criticism that perhaps they didn’t make the most of The Royal Northern and I was inclined to agree.
But it was John Grant. Funny, talented, wonderfully entertaining.
I have a feeling this isn’t the last time I’ll see him …