“Sinead O’Connor told me that it’s not the notes you sing, it’s the way that you sing it,” says John Grant, ravaged with flu but promising to scream his way through ‘Glacier’ anyway. To be honest, he could probably gargle the high notes and still steal Saturday’s John Peel Tent. He’s in the process of breaking out of his esoteric End Of The Road art-dad niche and winning over vast crowds in thrall to his oddball quirks, mannerisms and rampant swears, and they’ll slurp up any cranky weirdness he throws at them today.
Over a defining hour that will go down as this year’s big John Peel act breakthrough show, he runs the gamut of his music-straddling styles and personas. ‘You & Him’ and ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ find him indulging his Becktronic side, wiggling his groin like a funky John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane and pouring scorn on his own personal Farage: “You and Hitler oughta get together,” he snipes at some unnamed adversary, “you seem like someone they should chemically castrate… you think you’re super special but you’re just a big twat”. On the electro-gospel ‘Slug Snacks’ he turns into James Murphy’s dad, channelling ‘Scary Monsters…’ and The Human League. ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is an ELO pop opera about child cancer and gruesome threshing machine accidents. Like some sort of career-long tribute, he resembles a twisted collaboration between David Bowie and Frankie Boyle.
At his warbliest he even recalls forgotten Britpop-era chamber pop donks The Divine Comedy discovering disco, and no-one needs reminding of them. Luckily he’s never far from a moment bordering on the sublime, even though you always, initially, find yourself treading warily around his ballads sniffing for insincerity or sudden bouts of comedy swearing. Testing the waters of the syrupy ‘Glacier’, it proves a moving experience – “this pain, it is a glacier, moving through you and carving out deep valleys”. ‘Queen Of Denmark’, despite his plaintive piano husks of “I casually mentioned that I pissed in your coffee”, finds his voice giving out at the point where he’s supposed to scream in frustration at the partner doing him down, making the whole thing all the more fragile. Then he goes and closes with a couple of dramatic funk frivolities, one of which is called ‘Greatest Motherfucker’. Admit it, if you’d never heard of him before, you love him a little bit already.
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