We were asked if we'd like to cover London Grammar when they rode into Bristol recently, given that these guys are riding high following the release of their second album Truth is a Beautiful Thing, who were we to turn down a pair of tickets to one of the hottest shows in town?
Lo Moon opened the show on a stage delicately coated in purple lights; a perfect back drop to the ambient electronic indie music that is to come from the Los Angeles four piece. At times the rumbling bass can be felt in the chest while the contrasting delicate piano dances over it and as the music sways in ethereal fashion the cracking drums demand attention. There’s some lovely contrast here held together by the soothing vocal melodies of singer Matt Lowell. The set builds to its finale ‘Loveless’, Lo Moons' biggest single to date and the song that launched the band to notoriety and a deal with Columbia Records. Throughout ‘Loveless’ Some synth builds and guitar twangs leave me anticipating a drop larger than what is delivered, the guitar tone gets a bit grittier for a rock n roll solo which is a highlight for me and the artistry to switch between the two is exquisite.
Lo Moon are already establishing a name for themselves and tours like this one will certainly help, they’re definitely a band to watch for the future but while the building in these songs is beautiful, for me, it never quite feels like it arrives.
After a short intermission, London Grammar were welcomed on by a symphony of whoops & whistles from the expectant crowd. The band are a 3 piece who much like their openers ‘Lo Moon’, are able to change instruments for different songs allowing for a broad range of tones. The set began with "Who Am I", from their latest album Truth is a Beautiful Thing released in June of this year. As someone more accustomed to Punk and Metal shows, I was surprised by the silence in the room. Throughout the first song the crowd stood in quiet appreciation of the art being performed for them but as "Who Am I" ended, all of that changed; the roar of the crowd was louder than the band, almost painfully so.
This crowd-band relationship continued throughout the night; even when vocalist Hannah Reid requested the crowd sing along for a couple of the bands singles, the majority of the crowd chose instead to watch in receptive silence. Perhaps spellbound by the mesmerising music laid before them or intimidated by the stunning vocal range they were witnessing, both are believable options.
The lights and projected backdrop compliment London Grammar perfectly, while many of the backdrops (Such as water droplets and the Earth turning) made it appear as though the laptop programming them has changed to a screensaver these images suit the gentle tones of the band. The use of, at times, uncomfortably bright flickering lighting went someway to creating the illusion of movement on stage when in reality there was none. Stage fright has been mentioned in multiple interviews by Hannah Reid as a reason that shows have been cancelled in the past and this may be a contributing factor to the immobility of the performers on this night. Alternatively it could be a stylistic choice and at times it worked in combination with the hypnotised audience creating haunting moments of stillness between lines of unaccompanied vocals. However, if London Grammar want to live up to their potential and become a big hitter on major festival bills this is an area that requires work.
The ‘last song’ of the set "Big Picture" shows hints of this potential as the repetitive guitar line creeps in and from out of nowhere, 2000 previously silent people are clapping along in unison. I fully appreciate that as with Lo Moon before them, it may just be a case of my lack of knowledge about the genre but I think it would do wonders for the close of the show if this could build into a large memorable chorus. Instead, the crescendo was less of an impact once again, though with another deafening roar from the crowd they clearly did not share my reservations.
There was an immediate and unavoidable demand for an encore, I would have guessed, given it has become such common place, the encore would have been forthcoming regardless but it’s always nice to attend a show where it’s truly warranted. Guitarist Dan Rothman barely gets off stage before coming back on to tune his guitar somewhat giving the game away but when the rest of the band rejoined him there was another thunderous cheer from the delighted crowd. A three song encore ensued culminating in a rendition of "Metal & Dust" the title track of their debut EP and the song that started it all for London Grammar.
The talent here is undeniable, Hannah Reid’s voice is sensational, Dan Rothman & Dominic Major do a good job creating a musical back drop for Hannah but at times, that’s all the instrumentation feels like. A lack of memorable chorus and stage presence hold them back from being the band they could be but all of this is excused when we remember they’re only 5 years into their career, there is still a lot to look forward to from London Grammar.
Who Am I
Flickers / Help Me Lose My Mind
Wasting My Young Years
Hell to the Liars
Truth Is a Beautiful Thing
Rooting for You
Bones of Ribbon
Oh Woman Oh Man
Metal & Dust
Review by Hena Larkin