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There is little wonder John Grant seems in such rude health as he stands beaming, surveying his audience. In the past year his debut solo effort, Queen Of Denmark, has become a word-of-mouth hit, six years after his previous outfit, The Czars, folded having spent years slogging away for flickers of recognition. It’s a deeply personal, outsider’s album that veers between blunt self-examination, nostalgia and a wicked sense of humour. Judging from the amount of goodwill in the room, it’s a record that has not only found its way into more record collections than Grant might have imagined, but also under the skin of most who have heard it.

Intimacy is the key here; from the relationship between the audience and performer established by that extraordinary album to the stripped down piano and synth set-up. Grant clearly thrives in this sort of environment, he played a similarly brass tacks set at Rise Records earlier in the evening. He’s a relaxed raconteur letting the crowd in on the secrets behind some incredibly personal songs. At times during the evening it didn’t feel too far removed from having a stranger reading their diaries or showing their childhood photos to a crowd, though considerably less creepy than that sounds.

Opener You Don’t Have To sets the mood for the evening perfectly. A reflection on the ugliness of a relationships breakdown; it manages to be devastating and savagely amusing in equal measures whilst also finding time for a frankly filthy synth solo. Vocally, Grant is as striking as his lyrics; his rich baritone flitting between the goose bump-inducing and sardonic. If there is a failing it is that at times, he loses this subtlety and opts for a more straight-forward approach, simply belting the song out. Whilst the power is undeniably impressive, it becomes less personal, drifting towards generic M.O.R balladry. Indeed there is a slight mid set lull, perhaps the result of having a single album from which to draw along with the limitations imposed by the bare bones arrangements. On record, Chicken Bones evokes the likes of Rikki Lee Jones and Little Feat, a drily funky highlight. Here however, the piano treatment did it no favours at all as it descended into sub-Jools Holland blandness, accentuated by Grant’s uncomfortable dad dancing. Similarly, the lyrically spicy JC Hates Faggots’ (JC standing for Jesus Christ) potency is diminished by the lyrics being just about drowned out by an obtrusive synth arrangement.

Happily the evening got back on track with the poignant TC And The Honeybear and from then on Grant could do little wrong. Other highlights included the Nina Simone-channelling Caramel and the emotionally battered Queen Of Denmark. In the hands of other artists these tales of suffering and ineptitude could have very easily become maudlin sob-stories; Grant’s self-aware wit and charm, melodic sensibilities and vocal dexterity make for an often oddly uplifting experience. The standing ovation at the close of the set spoke a thousand words. There was clearly plenty of love in the room when he took to the stage; by the end of the evening St Georges was positively swollen.

Words: Jamie Atkins