James Grant Gig Review
Every time I go to one of James Grant’s concerts, he seems to have more musicians onstage with him than the last time I saw him.
The first time I saw him live was a few years ago at the Tollbooth in Stirling, when he was accompanied by a cellist and the brilliant Fraser Spiers on harmonica. The next time I saw him, about eighteen months ago, he had a full band. On Friday night at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s New Auditorium however, not only did he have a full band plus a backing singer, he also brought along the 14-piece Halleluja String Ensemble for good measure. So with twenty musicians onstage, we were more than hopeful that we were going to hear something pretty special.
Before we get to our headliner though, I must tell you about the evening’s support artist, singer/songwriter/storyteller Chrissie Barnacle. According to her Bio on Facebook, Chrissie “is a human and story-teller hailing from the grimy shores of the clyde, who writes spiked and honest nylon-stringed folk about (among other things) hazelnuts, cannibal rats and the impossibility of love”.
Yeah. Cannibal rats! Eminently likeable, kooky and just a little bit mad, she took the audience on a brilliantly entertaining journey through her struggle to get her head around love, the world and her place in it. I can honestly say you’ve never lived until you’ve heard a song involving a woman on an empty cruise ship, save for a bloke and a load of cannibal rats!
And so, with the audience in a suitably upbeat mood, James Grant arrived onstage with his huge entourage of musicians. There’s one word that I have always associated James Grant with, and that’s quality. Whether you look at his work with Love and Money from way back when, or his solo material of more recent times, there’s been a real streak of quality running through it all.
Although I’d seen James Grant perform the vast majority of Friday’s songs live before, the addition of an orchestra gave this performance an epic sound you rarely hear outside studio recordings. Grant’s vocals were – as always – absolutely stunning. And as we have come to expect from one of his shows, he was also on top form inbetween songs, when he had lots of good natured banter with the audience.
Normally about now I’d go on to pick out a few songs from the performance as highlights. But the addition of the orchestra made every song sound better than I’d ever heard them performed live before, making every song extremely special. But there is one James Grant song which has been a personal favourite of mine for a long time now, and he saved it until the end of the evening. ‘Winter’ was absolutely stunning. Beautiful lyrics, wonderful melody, performed fantastically.
The evening was rounded off with a two-song encore. First up was the brilliant ‘Halleluiah Man’ which had the whole audience on it’s feet, dancing in the aisles. Last song of the evening was a tribute to the late, great David Bowie with a barnstorming rendition of ‘Starman’.
This was without doubt the best live performance I’ve seen from James Grant. Having the opportunity to see properly good artists like him perform on stage with a full band, plus orchestra, is rare indeed. And this was quite simply as good as it gets.
Brilliant, brilliant stuff.
My Thrawn Glory
This is the Last Time
Pray The Dawn
I Can’t Stop Bleeding
Lips Like Ether
Does it all Add Up to Nothing
The Devil’s Debt
Strange Kind of Love
Walk the Last Mile
You’re Not the Only One