Concert Review: John Grant, July 3, Drake Hotel

john grant

The first time I saw John Grant was a couple of years back. He was being backed up by Midlake, he was playing in a church, and the songs he was playing were often ones you wouldn’t quite expect to hear in a church. It was a unique and memorable show. Grant’s powerful voice and lyrics definitely made an impression on me that night. In his review of that show, Gary noted that he “would go and see this guy live again in a foot-tap.” I agreed, and so here I was, ready to see him play a more stripped down set, accompanied only by a keyboard player.

Although he is an American, John Grant is one of those performers who seems to have a bigger profile outside of his own country. I will confess that I hadn’t heard about him until reading a profile in some British music magazine and probably only decided to dig a little deeper into his catalog because of the Midlake connection, but I’m glad I did. The man certainly knows how to pen a memorable song. His songs, while sometimes sounding like they could have made it onto the radio in the ’70s or ’80s, are also full of very honest and personal reflections on his life as well as a healthy dose of profanity from time to time for good measure.

The highlight of his set for me was definitely “I Hate This Town.” Grant mentioned how when he was writing the song, it’s chorus made him think of ABBA’s “Chiquitita” and reminded him of an old special he saw as a kid in the ’70s which featured some awkward clapping from one of the ABBA ladies. In honour of them, he announced he would be doing the same awkward clapping for this song even though clapping was “a bit too optimistic” for him. Yes, John Grant’s music can be a bit of a downer at times and there’s not a whole lot of cheery numbers in the bunch. But he tempers that with some humorous and sometimes self deprecating stage banter, as well as some hilarious and clever lyrics peppered throughout each song. A perfect example of this would be “GMF,” which is short for “Greatest Motherfucker,” as in “I am the greatest motherfucker that you’re ever gonna meet.”

While this show was not quite as unique an experience as the first time I saw him, it was still impressive to see him sing his songs in a more intimate setting. Whether being backed up by a full band or onstage by himself on the piano, John Grant can command the attention of the room.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts