Friday, March 28, 2014

London Grammar at The Independent – A Concert Review

      Bottom Line Concert Review – London Grammar’s Hanna Reid silenced any skepticism as to whether she can generate the same vocal strength and purity in a live setting that she achieves in a recording studio. Regarding the opening band, Highasakite, the Indie-savvy folks at NPR were right; this is a band that puts on a very strong live performance.

     London Grammar visited San Francisco for a second time yesterday. By coincidentance, during both visits, the phenomenon known as Lorde performed at a venue less than 20 miles away. During the exactly six months between the two visits, the tide has shifted, if the price of resale tickets is considered the water. For the September 27, 2013 performances, the asking prices for resale tickets (at Stubhub and Ticketsnow) were far greater to see Lorde at the Fillmore than to see London Grammar at the Rickshaw Stop. On the other hand, for yesterday’s performances, a general admission ticket to see Lorde at the Fox Theatre went as “cheaply” as $80 (pre-5:00pm), while the best price to see London Grammar at The Independent was $140 (to be fair, this was the second night of Lorde being at the Fox Theatre). The difference is more a consequence of the San Francisco area having an increased awareness of London Grammar than it is any reduction in the appreciation of Lorde’s music.
     The members of London Grammar are Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman. Rothman is the source of the guitar sounds, which still remind us of the Australian band Jezabels. Major plays the keyboard, djembe and drums. Reid knocks you over with her amazing vocals. 
     At 9:45pm, Rothman and Major walked onto the stage of The Independent. The two strolled to their instruments and began the performance, Rothman with some shoegaze guitar and Major with some ambient keyboard. Hannah Reid soon joined them by taking a position in front of the microphone. She sang a series of “Hey” with a purity that showed she was “on” for the evening and that the sound system was up to the task. It wasn’t until about three minutes into the song that it turned into a more recognizable version of “Hey Now.” It was very effective. The audience was hooked.

     The performance remained “tight” throughout the setlist. Prior to the one-song encore, the crowd favorite was “Strong.” Embedded below is a video of the song from last night’s show (uploaded by another attendee). Hannah Reid starts by identifying her three “audience members of preference.” Earlier she explained that she was postponing work on an impacted wisdom tooth in order to continue the tour. From the banter with the crowd, it’s clear she’s handling the dental issue well.

     When London Grammar returned for the encore performance of “Metal & Dust,” the energy level jumped noticeably. The song started downbeat, but as it progressed, the band members appeared to be enjoying themselves even more than earlier. The audience moved almost in unison (although some of us dance less attractively than others). As well as London Grammar is doing, it was clear that once they add one or two more higher energy songs to their repertoire, the ceiling will be raised even higher.
      “Metal & Dust”

     “Wasting My Young Years”

Highasakite More than Held Its Own – NPR Was Right, Again
     Opening for London Grammar was the band Highasakite from Oslo, Norway.  We had heard of the band only because NPR gave them high praise during SXSW 2014. The members are Ingrid Helene Håvik (zither, steeldrum and vocals), Trond Bersu (drums), Øystein Skar (synths), Marte Eberso (synths), and Kristoffer Lo (guitar and flugabone). Listening to their recorded music does not prepare you for what they bring to a concert setting. We had a similar experience the first time we saw Of Monsters and Men, another band that fuses its regional folk sound with Indie Pop (although last night it was Norwegian Folk, rather than the Icelandic Folk that works its way into the songs of Of Monsters and Men). 

     In terms of instrumentation, we particularly enjoyed the flugabone, which had the sound of multiple horns playing simultaneously. Regarding the song structure, the regular use of swells was our favorite feature. And regarding vocalization, while the solos of Håvik could easily have carried the performance, the strength of the occasional harmonization by three and sometimes four members is what separated Highasakite from most other bands.
     “Since Last Wednesday” by Highasakite

     “Darth Vadar” by Highasakite

London Grammar

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