London Grammar - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
With only their debut album If You Wait to their name, it's no surprise that London Grammar's sold-out show in Wolverhampton barely lasts an hour. Bands with many more years and records to their name play the smaller Civic stages, so it's a sign of the trio's stratospheric rise that they are headlining their own show in the main hall. In this case though, 'short but sweet' - or maybe that should be short but soulful - definitely applies.
The Grammar guys and gal take to the stage for an extended intro that bleeds into 'Hey Now', and they barely pause in between delivering the entire album tracklist and one additional track 'Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me'. This is fine though, as anyone who has heard If You Wait will likely agree it is music made for listening to in a dark room at full volume. The mixed crowd, spanning eager teens and hot hipsters to keen musos twice their age, are attentive throughout as they hang on to Hannah Reid's every note. The applause, when it comes, is rapturous. This is a band that is already inspiring such devotion, and when they do speak to shyly offer their grateful thanks and comment on how horrendously hot it is in the room, they are sweet and charming and not sullen and sad as the music may suggest.
Reid's voice is the focal point around which everything else is built, both on the record and in a live setting. She does seem quite nervous when the music stops but her performance is pretty astonishing, her vocal awesomely ascending on crowd favourite 'Strong' and devastatingly vulnerable on softer, stripped moments like 'Interlude', where she takes to the piano. Bandmates Dan Rothman and Dominic 'Dot' Major respectively provide guitar and keyboards/percussion, and when this setup threatens to evoke The xx's live shows a little too much then suddenly a string section, consisting of six players, reveals itself from behind a backdrop to add some soaring cinematic highs.
Due to the brevity of the set, only the less familiar track feels like filler - everything else is vital enough to forego that trip to the bar or loo. Their cover of Kavinsky's 'Nightcall' is a perfect choice as the song's nocturnal vibe is at one with the band's own after-hours sound, whilst a beautiful 'Sights' is the best out of a clutch of tracks that revel in their gloomy grace. Melancholy is at the core of the music, but it is a Friday night so the big ol' drop at the end of 'Flickers' (an addition that is missing from the recorded version) and the encore closer 'Metal and Dust' offer relief from the intensity of the torch songs in the form of dancing. This balance between ballads and beats is something the band will no doubt continue to explore, and it is pretty exciting to think about what they'll bring to the Civic and other stages in a few years if this is the standard of show they put on after just one album. Consider me schooled in London Grammar: straight As all round.
Setlist: Hey Now / Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me / Interlude / Shyer / Wasting My Young Years / Flickers / Sights / Stay Awake / Nightcall / Strong // If You Wait / Metal and Dust