Wednesday 25 April 2018

John Grant at Vicar Street review: 'Stunning show - by the end of the night, he has Vicar St in the palm of his hand'

The American singer John Grant pictured live on stage at Roskilde Festival 2013. Denmark.. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
The American singer John Grant pictured live on stage at Roskilde Festival 2013. Denmark.. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Born in Michigan and raised in Colorado, John Grant has taken the scenic route to success. A former member of a critically lauded but largely unknown indie band called The Czars, Grant returns to Dublin for two back-to-back sell out shows that are this week's hottest tickets in town.

Even the recently crowned unofficial Queen of Ireland Rory O’Neill (Panti Bliss) tweets his praises after a stunning show.

In a world of carefully choreographed marketing campaigns and nauseating blandness, Grant is the walking and talking definition open book. His songs sometimes make for uncomfortable listening. I can’t think of any other artist in the world today who'd open their set with such a stark lyric: “And there are children who have cancer. And so all bets are off. Because I can’t compete with that.”

This arresting opener is the title track from Grant’s third solo album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. The set list includes gems from Queen of Denmark, which enamoured Sinéad O’Connor so much she used to open her live shows with her own cover of it, and the peculiar but riveting post-techno shuffle of songs from his breakthrough album Pale Green Ghosts.

Previous Irish shows in recent years have witnessed cameos from the aforementioned O’Connor and Villagers man Conor O’Brien. On this occasion, Grant is joined by three backing singers, including gospel singer Mary Pearce, who performed on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica anniversary tour and sung alongside a host of bona fide legends such as Grace Jones and Donna Summer.

Grant is also an incredible raconteur and his between song banter is priceless. He mentions how thrilled he was that Ireland successfully carried the marriage equality referendum. Grant is one of the most intriguing artists from the LBGT community. In 2012, he announced he is HIV positive and has never since shied away from this fact in either his lyrics or interviews.

By the end of the night, Grant has Vicar St in the palm of his hand. If you’re going along tonight, you’re in for a treat. If you’re not going along tonight, don’t miss out next time around

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