Grandaddy @ Summerhall, 22 Aug
It’s with an air of quiet calm that Jason Lytle walks on stage. No build-up, no fanfare, barely even a sense of occasion. So sporadic have Grandaddy’s live appearances been since their initial burst of popularity between 1998 and 2005 that it’s easy to forget the Modesto quintet have been back together for four years now, and this isn’t anything like their first UK visit in that time. Still, the sense of anticipation in Summerhall is tangible, and an opening run through turn-of-the-century favourite Hewlett’s Daughter ratchets up the excitement several notches. Whatever happens tonight, it’s clear that the crowd is determined to love it.
By the time Lytle smilingly acknowledges the audience with a soft “Oh, there you are!”, the atmosphere is bordering on euphoric. With a set list weighted heavily towards their earlier material – as you’d expect, in fairness, from a bunch of reunited veterans – it’d be easy to say that the prevailing mood is one of nostalgia. Then again, Grandaddy never really felt like a band particularly attuned to their era.
Sure, you could knot those Neil Young-ish vocals and rattling electronics alongside contemporaries Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips; you could even draw parallels between the wistful chug of those guitars and the wry collegiate spasms of Pavement… and yet they’ve never felt tied to the 90s (or, for that matter, the 00s) in quite the same way. Besides, the smattering of new tunes on offer tonight achieve what all new tunes from old bands should do: dangle gracefully on the balance beam between unexplored territory and sounding just enough like their classic material to feel warmly familiar. Good news for everyone.
The good mood continues unabated throughout, even when the astral bummer-pop of He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot brings the main set to a damp-eyed close. And when they finally say goodbye properly, it’s with a last encore of Summer Here Kids, which sees the entire room join the actions of one particular enthusiast who’s been pogo-ing with gusto since the evening’s first note. From gentle beginnings to an explosive close, Grandaddy underline how perfectly lovely it is to have them back. New album soon please.