Since the release of his 2010 solo album Queen of Denmark former Czar’s frontman John Grant has developed quite the cult following. This is certainly apparent from the very nearly sold out Playhouse crowd, all of whom wait with baited breath for Grant to hit the stage. Which he duly does, emerging through a haze of smoke and wandering unassumingly on stage.
Grant does not really bother with initial greetings instead of launching into opening track You Don’t Have To. After this, he greets us and goes into the “it’s great to be here” patter. This type of on-stage banter often sounds disingenuous, but you do get a sense that he loves Edinburgh, even going so far say it feels like the “centre of the universe”.
In the early going of this 90-minute support-less set, there seems to be a slightly unsure quality to Grant’s performance. As it seemed he needs a little while to find his feet. Even admitting after performing Marz that he nearly forgot the words. Even if there is a tentativeness to his performance in these early songs, his vocals are still as beautiful and velvety as they are on record.
Early on one of the most eye-catching things is the stage design. Clearly, a lot of time went into the setup. Particularly the lighting, with several inventive changes in style and tone. There is something intimate and atmospheric about the performance with Grant and his live backing band often playing through a haze in the semi gloaming. Only for them to be suddenly illuminated on occasion.
Throughout the set, he performs slightly different versions of some of his older tracks. They are also a bit more beefed up than on record due to the backing band. Grant’s performance builds over the course of the set. Although when we get to GMF, things really take off. It is a beautiful performance of one of his catchiest tracks, with its similarly catchy sing-along chorus of “But I am the greatest motherfucker, that you’re ever gonna meet. From the top of my head, down to the tips of the toes on my feet.” This being Grant though, the chorus is subverted by his oft-humorous and ironic lyrics. The crowd love it whooping and cheering the song. His renditions of Pale Green Ghosts, new single Love is Magic, Glacier and regular set finisher Queen of Denmark are astounding. His band is on absolute fire on these tracks too. After Queen of Denmark Grant and his backing band leave to a thunderous standing ovation.
That was, of course, not the end though as Grant returned for what would be a five-song encore, which included one thrown in because of an audience request. He initially returns just himself for a moving performance of Vietnam, before being joined by rest of the band. It all ends with a high energy, highly danceable (not that, that sort of thing is encouraged at the Playhouse) rendition of Black Belt and a second well deserved standing ovation.