John Grant, Festival of Voice - Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 09/06/16

John Grant, Festival of Voice – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 09/06/16

As Meilyr Jones and his band take to the stage in the magnificent Wales Millennium Centre, it quickly becomes clear that the beauty of tonight’s Festival of Voice show will be unequivocally enhanced by its surroundings. Framed by a duo of violinists, Jones strikes an impressive tableau; and there’s none of the usual gig fetter of achey legs or random drunk people to distract you from the art of the performance. What a treat to simply sit comfortably, and take it all in.

It is quirky and endearing: a bizarre kind of harpsi-pop, where sweet pop hooks are derailed by wondrously wacky breakdowns. At one part, Jones abandons his microphone to sing directly into the vast Donald Gordon Theatre acoustics. Later, he rolls around on the floor, crawls off stage, and takes off his shirt. It’s as theatrical as it is punk, delightfully Welsh, and does an ample job of introducing the main event.

John Grant is an absolute tour-de-force, and tonight it seems that nothing is off the menu. Intergalactic space pop? You’ve got it. Gentle ballad? Tick. Heavy metal? Of course. Raunchy romp straight out of a Schöneberg disco? No problem. The richness of his voice – so warm, so classic – makes the journey between disparate genres feel familiar, and his command of the stage is formidable: whether silhouetted against a backlit stage or standing proud in a spotlight, Grant has the moves to accompany his impressive lungs.

Between songs, his banter is sweet and amicable. He compliments Cardiff, he cracks jokes, and speaks candidly about his feelings. Before the title track of his 2015 album ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’, he tells us that “Grey Tickles” is the literal translation of the Icelandic phrase for “midlife-crisis”, while “Black Pressure” is the equivalent of “nightmare” in Turkish. His lyrics speak of personal struggles, romantic disappointments, anger, frustration, hopelessness. And in the audience, you can’t help but feel everything he feels.

The light show is an absolute blinder, and the performance as a whole is almost overwhelming: so loud, so bright, so honest, so true. Quieter moments take on an almost spiritual feel, until the funky tunes return and Grant struts across the stage like a big, sassy bear. This somehow feels like the purest form of artistry: an unbelievable talent, not limited by one trend or another, exhibiting a whole spectrum of brilliance. It’s emotional. And it’s really, really loud. And it’s awesome. A spellbinding performance from a powerful songwriter and majestic entertainer. More gigs in theatres, please.

Photo Credit: Emma Lewis

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.