London Grammar in Nottingham live review by EJ Scanlan
Emerging from near enough nowhere, London Grammar were on top form from the very beginning. Forming in my home city of Nottingham, their sound was instantly therapeutic to its listeners, with fans saying their quirky and unique sound instantly got their attention. Their debut album, “If You Wait” was met with critical acclaim back when it was released in 2013, with critics instantly loving their instrumentation and Hannah Reid’s vocals. This then led to their sophomore album, “Truth Is A Beautiful Thing” and their new record “Californian Soil” getting to Number 1 in the UK album charts.
Tonight, the band return to Nottingham for their homecoming show at the Motorpoint Arena. After seeing the band headline All Points East festival in August, I was amazed at their sound, live presence and how well they could create an atmosphere despite their more mellow melancholy sound. The light show was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen and it never detracted from the overall show, it added to it. Tonight, I want to see that same vibe, how they incorporate their sound of previous records to their new Massive Attack inspired third album, and with support act Eloise saying that the show is “flawless”, it certainly got me excited.
Speaking of Eloise, my main focus is on new emerging artists, and she is one to watch. I first heard her name go around in the summer but was disappointed by her performance at All Points East festival in August. I sincerely apologise to her for ever doubting her abilities, as even though her performance tonight had flaws, it was the first time I’ve ever felt this venue feel so intimate, where arenas are the polar opposite. It was beautiful to witness, and the second half of the set was amazing. I was amazed at what I saw, so Eloise, if by any chance you’re reading this, keep going with what you’re doing, because you’re going places.
The set begins with a gorgeous prerecorded speech from vocalist Hannah Reid to the introduction of their brilliant third record, “Californian Soil”, where she said:
“I’m imagining a lot of happy people, and most of you are with someone you love, but you are the lucky ones. All over the world, there are lots of people who are alone tonight. I imagine most of us have been in that situation at some time or another. I know I have. Recently, I heard the most beautiful song with a dynamic lyric that really expresses this feeling of loneliness. It means a lot to me personally and I would like to share it with you.”
As the beautiful ambience of violins fill the arena, goosebumps raced down my back as the band came onto the stage to perform “Californian Soil”, a gorgeous opener as the band add a country flair to the song, which works incredibly well overall. The instrumentation between the three of them was beautiful to watch all the way through. Going into “Missing”, the audience were continued to be fully transfixed by the band’s presence, as they were all completely silent, staring in awe of the beautiful musicality that they all bring.
As the band reminisced over old times and not being able to remember where their first gig was, they then played their debut single, “Hey Now” which was met with gasps of excitement from the crowd as they got out their phone torches to emphasise on the intimacy of their set. It was a gorgeous moment to watch, from where they were when they were founded ten years ago to now, it’s a gorgeous moment to see everything pay off. Followed by “Lord It’s A Feeling”, the curtains were opened to unveil an LED screen, which had some of the most gorgeous visuals I’ve seen for a concert this year, and it was the first time we saw the band utilise their new Massive Attack inspired sound, with beautiful vocals and production throughout, showing that these guys can do anything and everything and make it sound beautiful.
“Talking”, the big ballad from “Californian Soil” was performed next, and I was expecting a lot from this, it’s my favourite track from the album, and the lighting and blocking were perfect for this. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t pay off, as Hannah’s vocals were incredibly off for several parts in the song and more times for multiple other tracks. Live, it was forgivable, but listening to some of these vocals back is painful, as much as I adore her voice. When she can pull it off, she can really pull it off, but when her vocals are off, they don’t work. Every artist has their off days, and vocally, this was a very off one for Hannah. This slightly ruined the experience of the song live, but having said that, the crowd were just as invested, if not more so, and the gorgeous staging helped take away from a disappointing performance. Transitioning into “I Need The Night”, Hannah’s vocals got a hundred times better, but the band chemistry was the strongest we’ve seen so far, fading into a finale of gorgeous strobe lighting and instrumentation. “How Does It Feel”, one of the band’s more poppier tracks was performed with such energy and with some beautiful lighting designs, which was utilised by the sophisticated stage design, however, Hannah’s vocals once again were responsible for the overall downfall of the performance.
Gradually fading into “Baby It’s You”, the lead single to London Grammar’s 2021 record “Californian Soil” and one of their most electronica sounding tracks, the energy was building and instantly, everyone in the crowd was dancing along, and it was beautiful to witness. The lighting design was also a delight, as was the overall band chemistry and instrumentation, it made for a real highlight. “Big Picture”, despite having a very different sound, calmed the crowd down with Reid singing beautifully sitting on the edge of the stage, calming visuals of the sea, making their crowd, once again, relax and become transfixed on them.
London Grammar then went on to perform “Hell To The Liars”, a deep cut from their sophomore album, “Truth Is A Beautiful Thing”, my favourite song from that record, and live, it was phenomenal. The vocals were on point, the lighting was dark yet poignant and the finale, which on record is executed exquisitely with a beautiful piano, is overpowered by a rock guitar, giving the track a new sound, which I thought was a great move. Moving onto “Wasting My Young Years”, which got the crowd feeling incredibly emotional as they perform the power ballad with such raw passion and execution, it was made beautifully.
“America”, the final track from their most recent album, was performed next, but before they performed the track, guitarist Dan Rothman was bullied by vocalist Hannah to talk, because he never does on stage. He goes on to talk about how his band formed at The University of Nottingham over ten years ago, and how great it feels to be performing in the biggest venue in Nottingham, and to be back here. He then went on to describe how “America” was made, and then the band performed it all together in close proximity, even Dot Major put his keyboard on the floor to perform. It was a gorgeous performance, until thirty seconds in where Hannah stopped and said: “Ugh, I forgot the words, shit!”, where the whole arena burst into laughter and applause, like all of us Brits do whenever something goes wrong. “This happens on stage, the thing is, you have nightmares about this, and then it happens and it’s like, oh it’s fine”, she said, drawing light to the situation. These things happen all the time to anyone, but the way Hannah dealt with it was charming and excellent, and her second attempt was just as beautiful. They then moved on to “Metal & Dust”, the most experimental song they had in their discography before the year began, and the performance was the big highlight of the night. It had everything, the instrumentation, the vibe, everything, but the best part of it was Hannah’s sensational vocals, putting her troubles throughout the set to bed, ending on one of the best notes I’ve heard performed live all year. It was a sensational track to finish on before their encore.
The band performed three songs for their encore, the first was “Bones Of Ribbon”, a good but forgettable track from the band’s sophomore effort released in 2017. It was an interesting choice to perform the track, but a choice that I didn’t understand the decision behind it. It had the lowest crowd response of the night, so I don’t think it would be wise to perform the track again. The second song from their encore is probably the biggest song in their discography, “Strong”, which got everyone screaming along to the lyrics too in a beautiful moment from the set. The final song was an interesting choice, and it was “Lose Your Head”, a song that I love but didn’t understand why they chose this as their final song… until they played it. They performed the song as normal, which had everyone screaming along to the lyrics and vibing along with the track, which some gorgeous lighting all the way through. It was coming to a natural end, and then suddenly, the lights change as Dot Major randomly played some atmospheric trance keyboard sound which carried on as Hannah Reid came down to greet the crowd at the barrier, then appearing back on stage as the lights start to flash uncontrollably, and the second Reid comes back on stage, the lights transition from a radiant red to an explosive blue incredibly quickly as some electronic beats are played by Major as the crowd start to clap in rhythm. Hannah starts to sing the pre-chorus to the song in the same way she does on the Camelphat remix, as more trance-aesthetic sounds come from Major’s keyboard, as the strobe lights flash constantly, as then, as if by magic, the entire show turns into a rave, with everyone dancing and jumping along as if they were here to see deadmau5 or The Chemical Brothers, it was an amazing way to end the show, and one of the most memorable finales in a long time.
Overall, London Grammar delivered one of the greatest live shows since the live music industry opened its doors once again. The biggest shout has to go to the incredible backstage crew of set and lighting designers who created something special here. The band’s chemistry was fantastic with an expertly curated setlist that worked on many levels. Reid’s performance in the first half of the set did drag the whole show down, however, but she rapidly did something about it by having the best live note I’ve heard this year. This is a great band to see live, even if tonight wasn’t their best performance, they have something to be proud of, as Nottingham welcomed London Grammar back to their founding city with open arms.
- Californian Soil
- Hey Now
- Lord It’s A Feeling
- I Need The Night
- How Does It Feel
- Baby It’s You
- Big Picture
- Hell To The Liars
- Wasting My Young Years
- Metal & Dust
- Bones Of Ribbon
- Lose Your Head