It’s not surprising how at home John Grant appears on the Cork Opera House stage, towering over his worshippers.
In this newspaper last week, he wooed: “I appreciate the Irish humour. It’s very dry, people don’t take themselves too seriously. I’ve always felt at home here.”
He also lauded the “incredible” scenery of Myrtleville, Co Cork, where he played years ago. It takes him all of two songs tonight before he’s reminiscing about the place, asking is the hotel on the hill [Pine Lodge] is still there.
If we weren’t utterly beguiled by Grant, we’d be incredulous. Grant is able to make the crowd sing along to lines like “there are children who have cancer”; he infuses “...and other stuff” with more meaning than Dylan; and has us rolling in the aisles with verses (anecdotes?) such as “By the way I got tickets for us to see Joan Baez tonight/ Oh? I guess I misunderstood / I never heard of Joan As Policewoman / But I do love me some Angie Dickinson.”
His latest album, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, lacks the high points of his previous work, but it makes more sense live. ‘Geraldine’, buried near the end of that LP, opens the show, full of caring, croon, and charm.
The juxtaposing ‘Snug Snacks’ and ‘Guess How I Know’, faux-hop and off-metal, respectively, display his out-of-the-box approach. But ‘Disappointing’ is still, well…
He doesn’t have the quiff, but Grant’s Morrissey-like ability to relate is what has people hanging on his every word. “Do you really think that nobody sees the fear behind your smile?” he asks on ‘Down Here’.
The light show is simple but effective; ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ is a blinding powerhouse. It’s an all-seated affair, however, which sucks some energy out of proceedings.
Instead of wrapping arms around each other to cheer along to ‘Marz’ we’re wrestling for the armrest. It’s a minor quibble though, especially with ‘Queen of Denmark’ and ‘GMF’ placed triumphantly together.
By the time he sends us off with the soothing ‘Caramel’ we’re ready to bow down at the altar of John Grant.
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