Last night’s Grant Hart show turned out to be a really special evening. Yet earlier on on the day it was clear it was going to one of those nights that I had to drag myself from the house to go to the show due to tiredness and the truly awful weather. But there was never any doubt I would make it to see Grant play his first show in Scotland since
June 1990 the mid 90s. And, as is often the case, when you do get out, these shows are so worth the effort.
As the first show of the tour, occasionally it got a bit ragged as much for technical as performance issues. Grant had to pause a couple of times to work out how to play requests, he managed to unplug his guitar by wrapping his leg round his guitar lead on more than a couple of occasions and his guitar was also slightly temperamental injecting shards of noise at occasionally inappropriate moments. But what ultimately mattered was these songs and that voice. And with those two elements working so powerfully together, this show couldn’t fail.
The marathon, 105 minute, set, started slightly tentatively as performer and audience felt their way into the show with Grant largely uncommunicative early on. The opening songs were low key, two new ones from the ‘Paradise Lost’ project with ‘You’re The Reflection …’ from ‘Hot Wax’ sandwiched in between. But everyone, from stage outwards started to relax from ‘The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ onwards, helped no doubt by Grant deciding to move into request-mode immediately thereafter.
The worry, of course, for many artists would be that responding with alacrity to individual requests might leave the end of the set denuded of the best material. But as Grant played classic after classic, it became clear there was no chance of that happening.
The older material seemed to relax Grant too in dealing with the audience, his first (extended) conversation supported the day’s public sector strikes in the UK and thereafter he was fairly chatty on such disparate subjects as the reincarnation of Queen Victoria* and Sputnik. Actually those two came in the same conversation!
The highlights were a mixture of the more obvious tunes (say ‘Flexible Flyer’, ‘2541’ and ‘Last Days’) and the less obvious including a heavy ‘Now That You Know Me’ and the MPT requested ‘Evergreen Memorial Drive’, (which Grant gave me three chances to tell him what I wanted in my incomprehensible Scottish accent, then nodded appreciatively).
Occasionally he took control of the setlist from the audience particularly introducing new song, the beautiful ‘Radiate Away’ (it’s probably called something else), one of the highlights of the set, before finally relenting and playing a couple of the much requested tunes in the closing run.
The main set was concluded with an unexpected choice, ‘Puzzles’ whilst ‘Remains To Be Seen’ as the first encore was perhaps just as unlikely, given that it was the only song played all night from ‘Good News’. Both were stunning by the way.
For the final encore it was back to the audience and a slow version of ‘Admiral of the Sea’ as requested by a young lady in the audience.
All in all, I made it
25 26 songs, at least one from every record he’s been involved with since ‘Zen Arcade’, over the longest set I’ve seen anyone play outside of a stadium gig. Yet, as one old favourite tumbled over another then another, hardly any time seemed to pass at all.
Even this evening, I’m still basking in a warm glow from the show and I’m left hoping that it won’t be another 20 years before I get the chance to see him in Caledonia again. Given that he genuinely seemed to enjoy himself last night, maybe there’s a real hope that that won’t be the case.
I’ve loads of photos from the show – will sort these out over the weekend. But if you get a chance to go and see him over the next week or so, then jump at it.
* Grant was asking who the oldest person in the audience was at one point and he decided someone actually WAS the reincarnation of Queen Victoria!
“There’s A Change”
You’re The Reflection of the Moon on the Water
So Far From Heaven
Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
She Floated Away
Don’t Want to Know If You are Lonely
Books About UFOs
Now That You Know Me
Never Talking To You Again
The Last Days of Pompeii
Introduction (from ‘Last Days of Pompeii’)
Evergreen Memorial Drive
Pink Turns To Blue
Shoot Your Way to Freedom
Remains To Be Seen
Admiral of the Sea