Music Reviews

LIVE: London Grammar @ Rock City

With a double platinum certified debut album already under their belts and their most recent album, ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’ having debuted at number one in the UK Albums Chart, elegantly minimalist trio London Grammar have certainly come a long way from writing music in Lenton. Since meeting eight years ago at the University of Nottingham, the threesome have gone from strength to strength, having been signed in 2012 by the Ministry of Sound and a mere two years later nominated for a BRIT Award.

“Took to the stage with little fanfare or build-up”

Supporting them at Rock City was up-and-coming Californian indie triad, Lo Moon, whose calm, electronic sound was the perfect prologue for London Grammar’s heavenly tone. Hannah, Dan and Dot took to the stage with little fanfare or build-up, sliding effortlessly into the opening instrumentals of ‘Who Am I’.

It takes only a few seconds of listening to the trio to understand why they rose to such acclaim; Hannah Reid’s enchanting voice is simultaneously angelic and powerful, commanding the packed balcony and main floor audience to stop everything and simply listen. Their set began with a simple warm white spotlight on Hannah, whose voice and lyrics emanated raw emotion and a row of LED lights in the background, flickering to the beat.

‘Flickers’, a track more up tempo than most others from their album ‘If You Wait’, was the second played, with the LED lights fittingly oscillating on the screen behind and the crowd bopping gently along to the drum beat.

“The sweet nostalgia of being back in Nottingham”

After ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ and ‘Wasting My Young Years’, multi-instrumentalist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major smiled while touchingly saying, “We’re home” and went on to declare his love for “this place and this city”, thanking the crowd for coming out to support the band.  The sweet nostalgia of being back in Nottingham and performing in Rock City was evident in his voice as he spoke of how the trio wrote ‘Flickers’ in Hannah’s bedroom in Lenton and how great it was to be performing in a place they all knew so well.

Next up was the crescendo sounds and epic soaring tone of ‘Hell to the Liars’ which were appropriately shrouded by deep red lights and smoke, with the focus shifting briefly away from Hannah’s mounting vocals and onto Dot’s stunning instrumentals. Once the song ended, lead singer and undoubtedly the voice at the epicentre of the trio’s rise to commercial success, Hannah, reciprocated Dot’s earlier feelings about Nottingham and reflected on her own experiences in the Rock City main room. “I spent every Wednesday night here for three years,” she laughed.

“University of Nottingham’s weekly student”

Talking no doubt of Crisis, the University of Nottingham’s weekly student night, she proceeded to tell stories of how her Wednesday night outfits involved rotating dresses with her housemates for weeks on end, how she embarrassed herself on the Crisis balcony with “a boy who didn’t like me back” and how a girl pushed and threw a drink on her on the steps near the main bar.

All rather nondescript, standard stories which strike a chord with anyone who’s ever been clubbing, but stories which seemed somehow more insightful coming from a girl on a stage looking out at a roomful of university memories behind her. Hannah went on to laugh and recount how she and Dot met for the first time in the Rock City smoking area, another example of how this venue held such great memories for the threesome.

Later on in their performance, Dot yet again mentioned how surreal it was to be performing at Rock City and to be back in Nottingham, reflecting on how they began writing their first album in “Hannah’s room in Harlaxton Drive”. These small moments of fleeting incredulity gave London Grammar’s whole performance a touching and authentic feeling that the trio were truly happy to be performing in Nottingham.

“Mesmerising acoustic”

My favourite moment of the night was London Grammar’s performance of ‘Rooting For You’ as an already quiet room was completely silenced by the sound of Hannah’s ethereal voice singing the first verse entirely acapella. The mesmerising acoustic minutes were followed by Dan and Dot’s lifting instrumentals with the track ultimately falling again to a whisper.

“Tangible moment of audience interaction”

During their performance of ‘Strong’, London Grammar’s most streamed Spotify track, Hannah pointed the mic at the crowd in what was the most tangible moment of audience interaction in what was otherwise a very serene gig. The audience, which comprised of everyone from groups students to middle aged couples, sang back the chorus with joy. “Yeah I might seem so strong, yeah I might speak so long, I’ve never been so wrong” the crowd sang back, the happiness clear on Hannah’s face that they knew the lyrics.

After performing ‘Strong’ and ‘Big Picture’, London Grammar left the stage to rapturous applause by a crowd who knew that they undoubtedly deserved an encore. Moments later, the trio returned and Hannah’s haunting vocals re-emerged in the wistful ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’ and finally ended with ‘Metal and Dust’. Bluey green lights shone across the stage and transitioned eventually to a warm white, focusing on only the three band members, almost finishing how their set started. To appreciative applause they ended ‘Metal and Dust’ and as the lights faded, the trio walked off stage, almost certainly pleased with the night.

“Their musicality cannot be faulted”

The vocalised moments of nostalgia brought a sense of genuine happiness and humility to London Grammar’s performance, as though they truly were amazed to be performing in a venue in which they themselves had been part of the crowd so often. Their musicality cannot be faulted, staying true to their original sound, perfectly combining Hannah’s ethereal yet potent voice with Dan and Dot’s, admittedly sometimes overlooked, musical prowess, to create mellow, striking tracks with true feeling.


Nikou Asgari

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Image courtesy of London Grammar Official Webpage
Live images courtesy of Nikou Asgari

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