By John Curley
I thought that I was just going to a rock concert at New York City’s Irving Plaza on Wednesday, April 9th. But it turned out to be a coronation as well, since a new queen of British rock vocalists has been crowned. Her name is Hannah Reid, lead vocalist of the UK-based trio London Grammar. And she is spectacular. Reid’s performance at the Irving Plaza show was jaw dropping.
London Grammar’s Irving Plaza show had the vibe that the audience was really witnessing something special, that we were seeing a band on the rise. The crowd at the sold-out, packed Irving Plaza was quite vociferous and extremely enthusiastic, roaring loudly after each song. The band, all of whom seem somewhat soft spoken, actually seemed a bit taken aback by the noise and energy emanating from the crowd.
In addition to Reid on lead vocals and occasional keyboard, London Grammar also include Dan Rothman on guitar and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major on keyboards, drums, and djembe.
Opening the show with a powerful, extended version of “Hey Now,” London Grammar took the stage bathed in blue light and dry-ice fog. Reid, at center stage, was the show’s focal point. And she did not disappoint, thrilling the crowd with her unique vocal style. Reid’s vocals were particularly powerful on “Sights” and “Metal & Dust.”
London Grammar’s set consisted of all originals with the exception of their stunning cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall,” a song that was featured in the film Drive. But London Grammar’s considerable reworking of the song makes it sound like an original.
London Grammar have been touring behind their debut album If You Wait for some time now. Reid discussed how, to stave off boredom on the tour, she is rereading all of the Harry Potter books again, and has almost finished the last one. Rothman told a story about how their vehicle broke down in Pennsylvania the day before, just two hours before they were due at the New York City studios of CBS-TV’s Late Show With David Letterman (upon which they performed “Strong”). The band had to quickly rent a car and speed though the Lincoln Tunnel to get to the Letterman taping on time. They performed with rented equipment on Letterman’s show, as their gear was still in Pennsylvania. Their equipment arrived late to the Irving Plaza show, delaying the start of the show by about 30 minutes.
London Grammar’s sound is about as perfect as any band around. It is not too understated and is never over the top. The mellow music soundscapes created by Rothman and Major serve as the perfect backdrop to Reid’s impeccable vocals. It genuinely felt like a privilege to get to see London Grammar perform in a smallish venue like Irving Plaza. They are clearly going places and will very likely be playing much-larger venues on future tours. Watch this space.
London Grammar were onstage for 60 minutes, performing a nine-song main set with a two-song encore.
Opening the show were the Brooklyn-based band Haerts. The half-hour delay to the start of the show meant that Irving Plaza was quite crowded when Haerts took the stage. Their 40-minute set of ‘80s-style synth-driven rock was very well received by the crowd. Hearts’ lead vocalist, Nini Fabi, spoke to the crowd quite often and left a good impression. She’s a real talent. In addition to Fabi, Haerts also include Ben Gebert on keyboards, Garrett Ienner on guitar, and Derek McWilliams on bass. They are joined by a drummer for their concert performances.
London Grammar’s setlist at New York City’s Irving Plaza on Wednesday, April 9th was as follows:
Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me
Wasting My Young Years
If You Wait
Metal & Dust