John Grant

A set of very specific and complicated emotions

JOHN GRANT at Drake Underground, Wednesday, July 3. Rating: NNN

A lot of very specific and complicated emotions were on display during John Grant’s show at the Drake, the final stop on the Iceland-based American singer-songwriter’s tour in support of his second solo LP Pale Green Ghosts.

Grant’s ability to hone in the feelings underlying his urges toward self-hatred and self-love, and mull them over with honesty, heart-breaking wit and unpredictable turns of phrase has attracted packed houses in the UK and the ears of Sinead O’Connor and Elton John.

While Pale Green Ghosts is a squelchy, new wave-influenced affair, Grant dispensed with electronic beats in favour of a pared-back, piano man set that focused attention on the nuances in his gorgeous baritone and charmingly deadpan banter.

His self-lacerating lyrics not only require nerve to write but to sing, and delivered them gracefully with eyes tightly clenched. As a keyboard player, he is sometimes lumbering. It often seemed like his hands were struggling to keep up with his voice but fortunately touring partner Chris Pemberton was much lither on the keys, providing a softer landing for Grant’s venomous self-lacerations and punchlines.

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