As the queues sprawl out of Usher Hall onto the pavements of Lothian Road, not even the October drizzle can dampen the enthusiasm of this eager crowd. The venue is an appropriately impressive setting for the music of London Grammar; unassuming and unimposing in its grandeur but spectacularly beautiful nevertheless.
Fledgling LA band, Lo Moon, establish the tone for the night with ephemeral, soulful tracks such as ‘Thorns’ and ‘Loveless’, whilst a glance around the auditorium, from the stalls up to the higher circle, offers an insight into the rather unexpectedly older demographic of the crowd. The apparent lack of students at this gig might reflect the steeper ticket prices, or perhaps it is indicative of the widespread popularity of London Grammar’s music. The fluidity of both albums, If You Wait (2013) and Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (2017), sits as comfortably on Radio 4’s evening playlist as it does on Radio 1, a musical feat for which they have achieved both critical and commercial success.
Anticipation builds as 9 o’clock creeps around and the crowd, relatively merry for a Tuesday evening, enthusiastically awaits the arrival of the three-piece band (comprised of vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major on keyboard and drums). Despite arriving on stage twenty minutes later than scheduled, this audience are all too happy to forgive and forget and, unapologetically launching into ‘Who Am I’, London Grammar immediately have the crowd in the palm of their hand.
As searing beams of white light project out into the depths of the crowd, a slick projection creeps into life at the back of the stage. A flickering screen shows a moving organism quivering beneath the probing eye of a microscope, growing in size as the throbbing bongos of ‘Flickers’ pulse throughout the room. London Grammar’s music is inherently cinematic and this striking set provide a justifiable backdrop. As the show progresses, these spectacular visuals will morph from Alpine silhouettes into plumes of smoke billowing from industrial factories, until eventually we reach the curve of Planet Earth and an image of the stratosphere itself.
Indeed, the unearthly tone of Reid’s vocal range is indisputable as she soars through ‘Wasting My Young Years’ and ‘Stay Awake’. By the time she takes a seat to play the opening bars of ‘Hell to the Liars’, the warmth and appreciation radiating from the crowd has positively enveloped the band whole. As the track crescendos, from solitary piano notes to crashing percussion, it is hard to believe that there are only three members making such a powerful sound. Have they perhaps hidden a supporting orchestra behind the backing screen? Older classics such as ‘Hey Now’ sound as fresh as the first day they were first streamed on the internet, whilst newer tracks such as ‘Non Believer’ and ‘Big Picture’ resonate throughout a crowd who have clearly welcomed a new catalogue of music from the band.
Although Reid’s Scottish accent isn’t half a patch on her singing abilities (“I’m actually half Scottish!”, she quips mid-set), London Grammar’s gratitude to the crowd is apparent: “It means the world to us for you all to be here”. Following a night of music as spectacular as this one, there’s not a chance this adoring crowd would have spent their evening anywhere else.
Image: Warren Higgins, Chuff Media