Words by: Freya Parr
This concert was by no means what I expected. As this was the first thing I had seen as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, I had completely underestimated the scale of the occasion. What an absolutely stunning arena it was. Surrounded by small food and drink stalls, the auditorium was chocker-block full of people standing and seated. We crawled our way to the front, and looking back up to the top of the venue took our breath away. I can only imagine how exciting it would have been for a band like London Grammar to perform there.
Beers in hand, and with the dank musk of certain herbal substances in the air, we were ready. A thick layer of fog spread out over the stage and audience, with the recognisable eerie guitar solo from one of their more enigmatic yet utterly beautiful songs “Hey Now”. The vocals of lead singer Hannah Reid were nothing like I’d ever heard before. Her ability to control her melismas in her incredible vocal range was extraordinary. The lighting of the whole performance was spectacular. The use of strobe lighting perfectly on time with the beats every now and again was so effective, and perfectly complimented the rise and fall of the musical progression. Having the entire first song performed with the band in complete shadow was brilliant – it heightened expectation and created such a serene atmosphere in the crowd. I think everyone was quite literally blown away.
They then moved onto their next song, which was “Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me”, which was a contrast from the opening, because it was more upbeat, and the lights came up to reveal not only London Grammar, but also an accompanying string quartet on a raised platform at the back lit up in bright yellow.
I didn’t actually pay significant attention to the lyrics used – they literally could have been singing anything for all I cared. The quality of the sound was more than enough to keep me transfixed from beginning to end.
Dot Major, the multi-instrumentalist member of the band, joined in at some points on vocals to add harmonic richness, and it was amazing how much the sound warmed. Whoever was in charge of the lights and sound of this concert did a truly phenomenal job, because I know how difficult it can be, and in an arena of that style it would have been significantly harder, and yet, it was perfect. The balance of the string quartet with the band was also equally well thought out, and they complimented one another really well, adding layers of depth to the sound.
What’s more, the three members of London Grammar themselves seemed like legitimately really lovely people. They didn’t chat on endlessly like some performers do, breaking the ambience – they had the balance perfect. They seemed like lovely, normal people who were genuinely nervous and overwhelmed by the beautiful auditorium and the crowd before them.
Throughout their performance, on the screen between London Grammar and their string quartet, there were projections played in strips very subtly to aid the musical narrative. It was understated enough to not detract from the music, but created a lovely aside to merely watching the band.
One of my favourite songs from the set was “Flickers”, the first song the band wrote together. It was wonderfully produced, and was brought up and down in intensity, assisted by the fabulous lighting, and as someone who hadn’t heard that song before, it was just sublime.
There are quite literally not enough adjectives in the English language to describe how incredible this performance was. I honestly felt privileged to be a part of such wonderful music-making, and I have never seen anything like it. The vocals of Hannah Reid were indescribable. Her technique was spot on, and her shift from chest to head voice was just magical, and she created such an amazing atmosphere with her voice. The production of the whole performance was 10/10, and the minute I have the opportunity to see London Grammar again, I will be the first in line.