London Grammar’s UK tour has been eagerly anticipated. Solus is illuminated by a thousand smartphones; Cardiff waits to watch it through a thousand cameras. There’s a buzz of conversation, which unfortunately fails to subside even after Hannah Reid’s opening note.
Although a complete sellout, London Grammar’s live performance is not as gripping as expected. Reid is exceptional, and she sings beautifully, despite her obvious problems with the sound on stage. ‘If You Wait’ encapsulates everything the ‘90s loved with trip-hop, but lacks diversity. Each song is of a similar tempo and melancholic tone, somewhat more suited to a post-heartbreak and self-pitying night at home. London Grammar are perhaps unsuited to Cardiff’s SU, known for its unsavoury Saturday nights and undignified sport’s socials…
Ironically, their strongest moment comes through their cover of Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’. The trio has thus far been carried by Reid; her vocal power and aura on stage are enough to justify a solo tour. Dominic ‘Dot’ Major’s big hair has been more interesting than his role on synth and keys; yet he looks confident and comfortable playing drums. ‘This is the only song on the album we recorded live’, says guitarist Dan Rothman. Unsurprisingly, this is the first time tonight London Grammar look and sound like a band, rather than Hannah Reid with a backing track.
One cannot help but wonder where London Grammar will go from here. In no way is this a bad response from a Cardiff audience, but the support isn’t overwhelming, either. At times, ripples of unrelated conversation in the audience can be heard louder than the band. Is this the wrong music for the venue? If so, the trio ought to alter their musical direction, consider writing an uplifting song or two. Maybe it’s fashionable to like London Grammar. This is a sold out gig, yet most people are oblivious to the live music they’ve paid to see. Some even seem confused with the concept; comments such as ‘is that a REAL piano?’ will pierce the ears regular gig-goers for weeks on end.
Music aside, credit must go to the set designers and lighting team. Aside from Major’s hair, London Grammar are aesthetically sublime. Their encore is visually stunning. This is at least one thing to feel happy about.