REVIEW: John Grant at Vicar Street

For someone who’s latest record takes its name from the translation of the Icelandic for ‘Middle Aged Nightmare,’ John Grant appears to be going through anything other than a mid-life crisis as he stands on stage at the packed out Vicar Street. Resembling a more put-together Zack Galifianakis, the 47-year old glides on to the stage effortlessly. His magnificent beard could rival any of the hipsters’ gathered here tonight and his speaking voice is maybe even more mesmerizing than his lyrics.

From the onset, it’s clear that Grant has garnered himself quite the niche fan base here in Ireland. “Go on you great mother f*****!,” shouts an eager crowd member—a reference that any fan will attribute to his iconic hit, GMF. Grant is ecstatic to be in Dublin – and the crowd share similar sentiments.

The set begins with the title track of Grant’s latest album. Grant has always been known for wearing his heart on his sleeve and combining his wit to write very much tongue-in-cheek lyrics. He does not deprive of his trademark in Grey Tickles, Black Pressure as he sings, “There are children who have cancer so all bets are off because I can’t compete with that.”

He follows with the synth heavy Geraldine and then Down Here, before bringing us on a trip down memory lane; everyone is pleasantly surprised to hear the familiar eery piano of Marz. The song showcases the superb vibrato of Grant’s baritone voice. It’s early yet, but the audience is already swooning.

The next few songs are a major shift in mood and showcase Grant’s more funky sound. Coupled with this is his extremely entertaining dancing. Hip swaying and finger pointing are all part of the show. Snug Slacks exhibits Grant’s very best moves.

As the night goes on, Grant revisits some of his older material. Before delving into the emotional Glacier—a song written about his experience with homophobia—Grant congratulates us “on [our] great decision here in Ireland.” Next follows an audience favorite and highlight of the night, Queen of Denmark. Perhaps the first proper ‘sing along’ thus far, emotions are high as Grant belts out his frustrations while slamming the piano keys.

We’ve all been waiting for GMF and it’s every bit as spectacular live as it is on the record. It looks like this could be the end of the set but an exceptional encore follows including material from his days in The Czars. Before starting Global Warming at the request of a fan, Grant give us his humorous insights on the issue saying, “I don’t really give a s*** about global warming, but I don’t like the heat or the inconvenience.” The set closes on Caramel and Dublin is in love.

Somehow juggling singing, dancing, piano playing and comedy, Grant is really at the top of his game now more than ever. His lyrics are personal and beautiful, while his showmanship is superb. Vicar Street are enthralled and with good reason – a John Grant show is definitely one to add to the concert bucket list.

Scout Mitchell

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