It’s Saturday night, there’s a relentless squall of rain and me and my girlfriend are stood in an optimistic and good-natured queue that stretches down to High Street. Of course, if that row of shops on Arundel Gate hadn’t provided appropriate shelter, we’d probably all be considerably less good natured, but the majority of the queue have accepted the fact that a few minutes stood waiting in moist and chilly conditions is worth it to see one of the most rapidly rising acts in the UK. For tonight’s gig is headed by London Grammar and expectations are justifiably high.
Once we’ve got inside we briefly consider joining the throng massing at the front of the stage, but we opt for the vantage point of the balcony, where we get an unrestricted view of tonight’s show.
The first act on is a young guy called Kyan, resplendent in his red sweater and big hair, playing his keyboards and accompanied by a drummer, he’s a good natured presence that connects well with the audience. It also helps that he has a great voice, a nice new single called “Rosetta” and a particularly easy-going manner. He’s very much the kind of guy you’d be more than happy to share a table with in a crowded bar and find yourself chatting away to all evening. When he leaves the stage he’s pretty much won the whole crowd over, which when you’re the first support act at a gig like this, is pretty much all you can ask for.
If Kyan managed to tap into a well of good will, Say Lou Lou weren’t so lucky. Apparently a twin sister duo, flanked by a guitar bloke on one side and another girl on keyboards on the other, there was a lot of breathy and girly vocals, with one sister looking Bardot-esque and the other seemingly fixated with Stevie Nicks style arm gestures, they just didn’t seem to connect with the audience. Maybe that was down to the audience now getting restless for the headliners, but after the relaxed and friendly Kyan, they seemed to be on the back-foot throughout their set.
By the time London Grammar arrive on stage, expectation within the audience had been audibly mounting in the form of excited chatter until Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major are greeted with a wall of cheers. These cheers reach fever pitch when Hannah Reid takes centre stage in jeans and t-shirt, as she joins the boys in a stirring rendition of album opener “Hey Now”. What struck me almost immediately is that Reid’s vocal range on London Grammar’s debut album is not down to studio trickery, as she brings the goods live too.
After seating herself at the piano for “Interlude”, Reid makes a brief exit off stage, leaving Rothman to chat to the crowd about how they’ve dealt with being the UK’s most rapidly rising band over the last twelve months, until shyness seems to get the better of him and Dot Major steps in until Reid returns to stage. Such charming interactions mean that four songs in and London Grammar have the audience in the palm of their hand.
Throughout their show London Grammar are a slick act, utilising stage lights in a way that compliments rather than distracts from their performance (something not easy to pull off in a venue like the O2 Academy). Despite their music and Reid’s voice having an other-worldly quality, all three members of the band come across as three well grounded and likeable individuals. The guys aren’t overshadowed by Reid either as Rothman’s treble-heavy guitar playing adds an icy cool element throughout and Dot Major does his multi-instrumentalist thing in a way that ties the rest of their sound together.
By the time they end their main set with a brilliant rendition of their biggest hit so far, “Strong”, the audience know they’ve witnessed something they’ll probably not get chance to see again – London Grammar won’t be playing these smaller venues for very long. A stunning encore of “Metal & Dust” later and they’re gone, leaving their fans to depart the building and return to the relentless squall that has continued unabated outside, where they locate taxis and wait for busses safe in the knowledge that tonight they have been thoroughly entertained by an act who are only going to grow in stature in the future.