John Grant

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John Grant


As Blackman is a notable music journalist and indie-label operator, it’s rather unusual seeing him swap roles and seem oddly comfortable. Blackman’s deep nasal vocals instil a sense of mystique and quirk into his songs, but it’s his piano playing and tongue-in-cheek musings on life, love, sexuality and self-identity that prove quietly affecting and unconventionally graceful. The Melbourne artist’s well-crafted folk-classical-jazz-pop is often lined in self-deprecating poetics and haunting melodies; other times, his off-kilter wit is evident and demonstrative, as he texted friends (“Where are you? Why aren’t you here?”) during song breaks.


It was a treat to hear John Grant open with a new song entitled You Don’t Have To – laced with the deeply candid songwriting and profoundly haunting piano melodies of his debut solo album Queen Of Denmark (a record inspired by Grant’s life-long battle with his identity and sexuality, growing up gay in a religious family, and previous struggles with alcohol and cocaine addiction), it captivated the attentive audience. Grant’s incredible baritone and poignant vibrato rendered the crowd breathless and awe-stricken.


On most tracks, Grant was accompanied by a dexterous musician friend, who handled synthesiser and occasionally piano when the Michigan-bred/Colorado-residing artist stood affixed to his microphone stand. That the nostalgic Marz (named after his local childhood candy store that he returned to 30 years later to be served by the same lady) would follow the chill-inducing Where Dreams Go To Die was startlingly potent.


There was the odd positive love song (Outer Space), which Grant hilariously introduced as containing “the good cheese… like a three-year-old Gouda”) and occasional quirky jazz-pop ditty (Chicken Bones), but the rest of the set was defined by remarkably personal, moving and revelatory compositions, including It’s Easier, TC And Honeybear, Caramel and Fireflies (only available on the limited edition copy). However, the songs that left the most indelible imprint were Jesus Hates Faggots (“I’ve felt uncomfortable since the way I was born / Since the day I glimpsed the black abyss in your eyes … I can’t believe that I’ve considered taking my own life / ‘Cause I believed the lies about me were the truth”) and Queen Of Denmark‘s title track (“Why don’t you tell somebody else that they’re selfish? Weepy coward and pathetic…”).


As Grant’s former band, The Czars, never had the opportunity to tour Australia (“I’ve been trying to come to Australia since the ’80s”), he expressed his desire to play a few Czars songs to the delight of some loyal fans. L.O.S. and Drug were performed while Little Pink House (his late grandmother’s abode) closed Grant’s astonishing set.


The love for Grant in the room was palpable, and it was reasserted by firm audience feedback (a loud proclamation of “beautiful” from one gravelly-voiced punter) and humorous requests (“Can I have your gay love child?” to which Grant replied: “I’m sure we can come to an agreement”). It was apparent to everyone present that Grant had just delivered one of the year’s most compelling and heart-wrenching performances.


Loved: Everything – what a breathtaking talent….

Hated: Please … everyone should drop what they’re doing, purchase Queen Of Denmark (if you already own a copy, buy another and give unto others…) and beg John Grant incessantly to return to our shores ASAP.

Drank: Kirin