Review: London Grammar at The Phoenix

After months of incessant and mildly aggressive recommendations that I listen to London Grammar, I finally got a chance to see them live on Monday night. I trekked – by bicycle, I might add in a brief moment of self-congratulations – through the deluge to catch see them play a sold-out show at The Phoenix. Neither the smell of wet dog nor my soggy socks could dampen my impression of the British trio. Simply put – they were incredible.

Hannah Reid (vocals), Dan Rothman (bass, guitar) and Dominic Major (synth, percussion) took the stage and stood relatively still for the duration of the show – their music doesn’t call for much adornment. Opening with “Hey Now”, Major and Rothman soothed the audience and prepared them for Reid’s vocals to enter the mix. As her first note filled any available negative space, each member of the audience found themselves in the palm of Reid’s hand. From the raspy depths to the highest peak of her register, Reid didn’t miss a note. Her velvety voice swooshed and flicked across complex melodies with such ease and precision that, at times, I couldn’t help but question whether or not she’s even human. Though their songs are undeniably modern, the sparseness of Rothman’s spectral guitar and Major’s swirling synth gives a nod to minimalism. While Major and Rothman create shadowy crevices and Reid’s clinquant voice illuminates them.

“Strong” was the highlight of the show and, although it’s perhaps their most conventional pop song with its heartbreak lyrics and ballad-style piano chords, the slow build up and Reid’s ululations were executed with such triumph and grace that convention hardly felt like a bad thing. They played through most of their debut album, If You Wait, including standouts “Sights” and “Wasting My Young Years” and saved “Metal and Dust” for the encore.

If you get the chance to see London Grammar live, I aggressively encourage you to do so. Their tour may be sold out but they have some huge festival shows lined up for this summer (Osheaga go-ers, make sure you catch this one!) and I’m certain they will be back for more. It’s just a matter of time.

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Hilary Johnston
Hilary Johnston is a writer, event manager and musician from Toronto.
Hilary Johnston