So, there’s this bloke. John Grant. He’s been through some shit. He lives in Reykjavik.
He writes brutally honest music about himself and other stuff. You can Google him if you like and find out for yourself.
His album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ was one of my soundtracks for 2015. It backdropped my train journeys and pitch writing, as I worked and half listened, loving the mix of electronica energy and bitter sweet melodies.
Friday November 2nd, Day 980.
I’d not seen him live before. It was Ses’s idea, who, jet-lagged and knackered as she turned out to be, had bailed at the last minute. Chris her hubs and my muso friend (he mixed the music for their funeral, so forever grateful) collected us in a cab. We missed the support act, favouring a drink and a catch up and a bitch at the bar.
And now, somewhere through the gig, we’re stood, behind the mixing desk, for the best view, hot and sweaty. Not uncomfortable hot and sweaty, just at that point of thinking, ‘wow, this is getting warm, especially compared to the nip in the air outside’.
John Grant plays on, his candid songs coming alive when played live, here, in front of us, in this little, time bound moment on Planet Earth. Everything notches up a level from listening to him on Spotify. His booming baritone is backed-up by deep, resonating synth bass, then, almost mercilessly, is followed by heartfelt piano ballads, lit by a misty spotlight. I love his tone of voice, I love his turn of phrase. I love his brutal honesty, followed swiftly by his twisted, sweary sense of humour.
I’ve no real measure of the man, who I am to? Google says he’s been through some shit. Depression, addiction. And that, in writing music, he finds himself, getting closer to the bone every time he does. At the gig, we find out he’s 50 something, a ‘taken man’ and that he likes adventure park rides.
I stand sweaty, my over-shirt tied round my waist, listening properly, not casually, and singing along to the melody, getting the odd word right here or there.
It is a glacier moving through you
And carving out deep valleys
And creating spectacular landscapes…’
And as he plays ‘Glacier’, it’s like a submarine surfaces, gently nudging the stillness of the water. As it rises, periscope first, its metallic bulk of pure war machine emerges from beneath.
Trace sees I’m crying and we little finger hold hands.
I weep in the half light of Sheffield’s red brick Octagon theatre.
‘…And nourishing the ground
With precious minerals and other stuff’
The next day, a Saturday, after watching a dismal 4-0 drumming by Norwich at Hillsborough (lest said the better), I sit on the edge of our familiar green sofa, drinking a weekend G&T, trying to figure out how to add two Sonos speakers – one commandeered from my study and one from Izzy’s bedroom – to the living room TV.
It’s a tech thing, but apparently, I need to walk around the room, waving around my iPhone to ‘a-tune’ the speakers to the room. Then I need a track to test the sound quality.
‘…So, don’t you become paralyzed with fear
When things seem particularly rough’
I sit on the edge of our familiar green sofa and I weep again. Quieter, deeper.
John Grant has a beard. So do I. Maybe it’s a beard thing?