REVIEW // Up the imposters: John Grant’s Creep Show at Trinity

A father and son duo tear up the stage and John Grant fronts an electronic band at a very special Colston Hall Presents show

It’s a night for imposters.

I oughtn’t be at the Trinity Centre tonight, the ticket was for my more talented friend who’d had to cry off due to illness. Notification came through around 10am, you can go see John Grant’s latest project for zero pounds if you can knock up 700 words on same. Cut to me, still in my smart workshoes and Specsavers tie telling the lady on the box office that err I ah think I am on the uh guest list?

Support tonight is Kincaid + Blancmange, a father-son duo, the more fatherer of the two having produced deathless pop hit Living on the Ceiling. I don’t know this. I’ve barely had time to familiarise myself with the headliners on my lunch.

As the two begin to noodle at their modular synths, the older chap struggles to make himself sound sufficiently glacial and severe, yet still be heard over the music. ‘I smashed your phone tonight, oh joy… the ageing process cannot be denied’ Yeah, alright, millennials and their phones, right? (The man I am having these disrespectful thoughts about has had two certified Gold albums). Things pick up however, when the duo launch into Feel Me, a faster, sexier number that causes everyone in my periphery to subconsciously wiggle their arses.

a faster, sexier number that causes everyone in my periphery to subconsciously wiggle their arses.

John Grant is standing next to me. The Glacier chanteur is clad in a flasher’s mac, nodding along appreciatively. Glamour radiates from him like a beam, even from beneath the trucker cap. I immediately start to fancy him a bit, annoyingly. As K+B bring their set to an end, he whistles lustily through his fingers, leading the applause. 

I feel guilty for my earlier superficial judgements. The two men onstage share an embrace of such warmth it moves me, ignorant as I am of their filial tie. Lights out.

Creep Show is the result of Grant plugging into dark electro three-piece Wrangler

Onto the main event. Creep Show is the result of Grant plugging into dark electro three-piece Wrangler (Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder, Phil Winter, Benge), his velvety singer-songwriter tones colliding sensationally with their jittery, paranoiac stylings. This mixture is very much where they want our attention tonight, the star of the show. 

The performers install themselves behind a row of equipment-laden tables and seem reluctant to engage, all four gradually disappearing beneath trucker caps as the night goes on. When Grant addresses us, it is through a distorting vocoder, and even then only to say ‘HeLLo!’ or ‘tHanK yOU!’

The moody, mysterious opening salvo of sound, combines with reality-warping, monochromatic light projection

The moody, mysterious opening salvo of sound, combines with reality-warping, monochromatic light projection. It puts one in mind of the incidental music for Hartnell-era Doctor Who, with a similar effect of taking you to the far off world of Aridius on a punishingly tight budget. Then the beat drops like a tonne of bricks and my clothes start rotating.

Second track Modern Parenting brings Grant’s heavenly vocal to the fore. The tension of that voice with those beats is the animating force behind the whole enterprise, fascinating to witness. The projected backdrop display shows an angelic child alone, navigating a bleak and unsympathetic inner-city architecture. Something delicate trying to survive in the midst of carnage, an imposter faking it till it makes it.

The tension of that voice with those beats is the animating force behind the whole enterprise

‘You are the endangered species!’ Grant and Mallinder roar threateningly at us. A sea of phones rises above our heads, set to record. Bristol music scene mainstay Big Jeff’s pencil scratches away in his sketchbook. Everyone’s looking to use what time they have left to make some record. Jabbing notes into my phone, I think about things turning up where you least expect them, but making such a compelling argument for their presence there that you can no longer imagine one without the other. An elder statesman tearing up the stage alongside his kid. A crooner fronting an electro band. A little dweeb trying to pass himself off as a music journalist.

Mallinder rasps a benediction over our heads, the comforting message penetrating the sinister musical arrangement: ‘I gotta feeling it’ll be alright, be alright, be alright!’

Up the imposters.

Words by Adam Attley

Previous REVIEW // Dermot Kennedy unveils Without Fear at SWX
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