Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
The Arches, Glasgow, August 29
“I found this just beside the stage, do you like it?” she asks the sweaty, heaving crowd sardined into Glasgow’s Arches venue. The response is an unequivocal yes. But the hilarity of her entrance quickly dissolves as the slow-burning hum of ‘Symphonia IX’ begins to claw at the arched ceiling. It’s an unusual opening track, and the crowd looks bored.
This isn’t a love-in for the Canadian, and there are a few times tonight when the mood fails to reach the desired levels of ecstasy. But when Grimes hits the sweet spot, as on the brilliant ‘Vanessa’ or the otherworldly ‘Oblivion’, it can feel transcendental. It’s just incredibly frustrating that every moment of pure elation is followed by a bit of a downer.
It’s not all Grimes’ fault, though, as the soundman tonight does a pretty shoddy job, and the maddening textures that make up ‘Circumambient’ sound more like a child banging on some pots than a tribal battle-rave.
The fan standing beside us nails it when he says that if tonight’s gig had lasted for just 30 minutes it would be on everyone’s lips for months to come. Instead, most people leave confused. Shame really, as Grimes puts a huge amount of effort into making her shows more social experiment than gig, using her own quirky charm and a male dancer – think Happy Mondays’ Bez as a 1970s acid-freak.
But it’s hard to hate too much when there’s a song – in this case, ‘Phone Sex’, her collaboration with Blood Diamonds – that sounds like Vengaboys’ ‘Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!’ being beamed down from NASA’s Mars Rover. It was certainly the tastiest part of the show, but we left feeling like our hot dog was served in a stale bun.
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