John Grant made his return to Cork bringing his latest album Love Is Magic, to the Opera House. Declan O’Dwyer was there to take in a special night.
One could sense the anticipation in the foyer of the Cork Opera House prior to this gig. John Grant rarely disappoints and certainly didn’t on this occasion.
He entered the stage for this gig wearing a black baseball cap and face paint reminiscent of David Bowie. It was very noticeable that there was a good rapport between performer and audience very quickly which would remain for the duration of the show.
On the opening number ‘Tempest’ taken from his current album Love is Magic the track sounds far more electronic live than it does on the album. For this number the band do something like a Kraftwerk dance (If there is indeed such a thing), albeit slightly less robotic. They moved on to ‘Grey Tickles Black Pressure’ with Grant remarking that this was one of his favourite songs to sing.
Lyrically it’s amongst his strongest work. It is well documented at this stage about his battle with HIV. On this track his conscious is battling on one hand with all he has had to contend with and he is falling in to a self-pitying mode whilst on the other hand he knows there are a lot of people far worse off and admits that to the listener:
“I can’t believe I missed New York during the seventies… I could have gotten a head start in the world of disease… I’m sure I would have contracted every single solitary thing and there are children who have cancer… And so all bets are off cause I can’t compete with that…”
On ‘Jesus Hates Faggots’ he mimicked a Nazi walk, a clever use of irony against any would be bigots. During ‘Preppy Boy’ holding what might have been a drumstick in his hand, he turned backwards to the band, his hand movement jokingly suggested that he was conducting an orchestra. At that point there was a section dancing along in the aisles and you could feel the love in the audience.
‘Sensitive New Age Guy’ opens up what could be called the more electronic part of the show, which segued in to ‘Black Belt’. By the time he got to ‘He’s Got his Mothers Hips’, there were many more people off their seats dancing along. He mentioned the East Cork Village of Myrteville as he credited the place as where he first performed the ‘Queen of Denmark’, which drew a big roar. Grant played in The Pine Lodge there in the early 2000’s.
He then proceeded to play a much rockier version of the aforementioned song than the one that is included on the album of the same name. By the time he finished ‘Is He Strange’, he left the stage to a great applause before returning for a five song encore that was top heavy with tracks from his debut solo album Queen of Denmark.
John Grant is no one album wonder but it was clear that the tracks off this record were ones which resonated most with the audience. By the time he got to the sole track that did not appear on that album ‘GMF’, Italia 90 fever had broken out, as there was a Mexican wave going down amongst the patrons.
At one point he even asked for a request from the audience as to which song they wanted to hear. ‘Sigourney Weaver’ was the one that emerged victorious. He even stayed back for a brief period to sign a couple autographs from the stage. Grant seemed genuinely touched by the warmth he received and very appreciative of those who came to see him, which is always refreshing to an audience member.
As a very frequent visitor to our shores, hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s back in this venue. Although they might want to remove a section of seats if such exuberance is forthcoming on the next occasion.
All photos taken by Jina Estrada, check out more of her work by clicking here. Check out the full gallery below.