John Grant @ Edinburgh Playhouse, 20 Aug

John Grant has the Edinburgh Playhouse eating out of his hand tonight as he veers between earnest, piano-led balladeering and club-tinged, bombastic electro-pop

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 21 Aug 2018

John Grant could saunter onstage and have an audience of a few thousand people eating out of his hand with just his coy, acerbic banter and endearingly low-key charm. He cuts an affable figure onstage, making a few cracks about learning Gaelic (and throwing out the word “dreich” with the shy pride of a budding linguist), purposefully thanking “Glasgow” and taking an audience shout-out late on. However, the songs that surround these interludes demonstrate a depth of emotion and professionalism that few can hope to achieve.

The set is mostly composed of tracks from Queen of Denmark and Pale Green Ghosts, with just a couple from Grey Tickles, Black Pressure and the fuzzy, electro-pop fun of new single, Love is Magic. The five-piece band is surrounded onstage by a number of vertical light tubes that alternately serve as lava lamps or ecstatic strobe lights, depending on the mood of the song. Like the lights, the show veers between two main styles; earnest, piano-led, Father John Misty-esque balladeering and club-tinged, bombastic electro-pop. All of which is cut through by Grant's searing baritone – at times approaching the loose bass of Stephin Merritt – that delivers curt rejoinders to ex-lovers (Queen of Denmark), bleak extra-terrestrial metaphors (Sigourney Weaver), biting political critiques (Glacier) and the occasional heartfelt declaration of love (Outer Space).

By the time Black Belt arrives at the end of the show, the most undeniably club-ready anthem of the night, people are up and dancing, trying to move into the aisles as frantic ushers try to maintain the haughty decorum of the theatre. But it's a losing battle as the heavy beats envelop the room and shroud the adoring masses in a fog of synth-pop mania. The second standing ovation of the night that follows is more than deserved.