New York Irving Plaza

Few bands exude such an obvious love for life, while being so palpably fearful of the consequences of living...

On the day that a well-placed industry source informs [I]NME[/I] in all seriousness that the average American music aficionado thinks that Mercury Rev are English (and therefore close to irrelevant), the prospect of witnessing Grandaddy’s glorious flight-path scorned in favour of less sensitive souls – ie, virtually anyone else – suddenly seems very real. For while the Rev were able to tour themselves into an impressively staunch rock machine, Grandaddy seem ill-equipped for dealing with the utilitarian demands of self-promotion. Watch how their fragile aesthetic is exemplified by Jason Lytle, furrowed of brow as he tries to play more instruments at once than is feasible.

At least CMJ’s punter/delegate interface means that a confidence-boosting full house is a certainty. But such misgivings belie the inner pride that oozes from every fuzzy note tonight, as well as the fact that potential for disaster is part of the Grandaddy magic. It makes such near-seamless triumphs as this all the more special, amplifying the easy joy of a song like ‘AM 180’ and heightening the crushing pathos of ‘Hewlett’s Daughter’, as well as rendering ‘Underneath The Weeping Willow’ almost too painful to listen to without shedding a tear. Even those who see just the beards and hear only the arcane keyboard collection, who doubt the churning emotional core of these songs, would surely be moved to reassess on the evidence of Lytle’s unassumingly powerful performance.

Few bands exude such an obvious love for life, while being so palpably fearful of the consequences of living. That, and their knack for wringing profundity from the dumbest of base material, suggests that Grandaddy will survive and prosper in this wicked world for as long as they choose. With a filmed backdrop of rural scenes augmented by a crudely animated reindeer, they look as dramatic as such an unprepossessing bunch are ever likely to. As ‘So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky’ spirals ever upwards, they sound positively blessed. Perhaps the electric Lytle orchestra will prevail in the hearts of the many, as well as the few, after all.

Keith Cameron