John Grant – The Forum, Bath

Wednesday 31st October, 2018

I adore John Grant, and although I’ve seen him live 4 times I have never seen him headline his own show. He was the best thing about BBC 6 Music Festival, owning the stage and making me smile whilst breaking my heart. That remains one of the best performances I’ve seen. I also saw him as part of 3 Ring Circus with Richard Hawley and Bill Ryder Jones (now that was a very special night indeed) and as Elbow’s special guest twice earlier this year.

I love his music. It’s varied, eclectic, witty and always searingly honest. His voice is like honey, warm and can sweeten even the bitterest pill. So you can imagine my excitement when this tour was announced and the location and date worked perfectly can’t you?

The Forum is a beautiful venue, lovingly restored to it’s Art Deco glory (a style I also love) with brilliant acoustics and somewhere I was happy to be visiting again. We were seated in the front row of the balcony and had a superb view and the sound was top notch too.

Support was from Two Medicine, who I really liked. Synths, guitar and lush vocals, it all felt quite dreamy. They painted song soundscapes that manged to feel intimate despite the size of the venue. Tom and I had been talking earlier in the day about what makes a good support act, Two Medicine were an excellent choice by JG.

The man himself. I feel better just knowing John Grant exists and that he makes music. He is a superb showman, the theatrics of his music were matched by dramatic lighting and he was backed by a brilliant band of musicians.

There was something particularly delicious about hearing Smug Cunt sung in a building owned by a Church I have to say. It’s one of my favourites on Love Is Magic, it paints such a vivid picture and displays JG’s fabulous wit. As does Preppy Boy which makes me laugh every time I hear it anew and discover more lyrical nuggets. Anybody with the skill and flair to write a song that makes me laugh, dance and cry is somebody I am going to love. Oftentimes John manages all of that in the space of one song, he certainly does it over the course of an album or live performance, “emotional whiplash” he called it. The shifts in tone between the up tempo, dancey numbers (which wouldn’t have been out of place in a nightclub) and the piano led, vocal rich tunes, did jar occasionally, but then this is John’s music and I don’t know how else he would do it. I love all of his output, it is the stuff of life – the highs and the lows all mingled together. John Grant, above all else, is an honest musician. That is the reason his music resonates so deeply with me.

The extraordinary Metamorphosis should become John’s calling card. It’s almost 3 songs in one, and shows off almost all of his brilliance. He is best known for Pale Green Ghosts, GMF and Glacier, all of which were aired tonight and get better the more I hear the more I hear them. The first time I heard Glacier was at BBC 6 Music Festival and it broke my heart. It still does. It is such a beautiful, emotionally deep and painful song, yet ultimately about the redemptive power of hope. It could have only been written by someone with lived experience of the types of pain most can only imagine in nightmares. And it is shared with love, with the hope it helps others. John Grant has a beautiful soul, it is poured into every note. I wept.

I went into this gig already loving John Grant and I came out with that renewed and strengthened.


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