Late into the evening at Granada Theater on March 18, London Grammar's moody, minimalistic pop encapsulated the crowded club venue on the Tuesday after what can arguably be called the most exhausting week for diehard music fans in Texas- SXSW. The week-long debauchery of live music didn't deter curious fans from standing around to stare at musicians for several hours yet again.
It's obvious from the stiff stances and lack of eye contact with the audience that London Grammar is a young, wide-eyed band overwhelmed by the attention from a sold-out crowd in Texas thousands of miles away from England. The trio looked genuinely shocked to see such a large crowd in a city they had never played, especially after a debut outing to SXSW just prior to the show at Granada.
After releasing debut album If You Wait last year, the only way has been up. In January, London Grammar debuted on American television by performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and just this month played two songs on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Having already gone Platinum in the UK and Gold in Australia, If You Wait has been the little album that could of 2013.
If You Wait's ambient, soft tendencies don't exactly lend themselves to raucous or lively live shows. Calming, steady lighting free of movement and a simple background complimented the down-tempo tracks. Similarly, opener Highasakite's emotional yet simple arrangements fit in nicely as a preview slice of beautiful pop music. After releasing the second full-length album In Treatment earlier this year, the Norwegian indie pop act suitably brought a soaring indie pop sound akin to fellow cold-weathered friends in Of Monsters and Men.
Dynamically, London Grammar's set didn't veer far off, but vocalist Hannah Reid's effortless vocals make for an arresting experience. The simple sonic approach allowed more room for Reid's husky, powerful vocals to truly soar and fill the room, and her voice is as chilling and full of depth live as on the album. There was certainly a lack of energy, but Reid's vocals can do no wrong. Reid could be standing motionless whilst staring at the floor and still captivate with her husky, emotionally tinged vocals.
However, it was apparent her nerves were getting the best of her. Towards the end of the set, she forgot a line of the lyrics and sheepishly looked away. Even with the small ounce of embarrassment, haunting, sparse arrangements and a focus on vocals worked beautifully to make Granada Theatre appear more vast than the packed club it was.
One of London Grammar's best attributes is the ability to create emotion and drama out of minimalism. Just a simple set up is all it takes. Sometimes it takes a indie trio from London to remind us all that pop doesn't always have to be about sultry divas, sensory overload live spectacles, and pyrotechnics.
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