It is encouraging in dark days that talents like James Grant, the Pearlfishers and Grant's erstwhile partner, Chris Thomson of the Bathers, can sustain something of a long-term pop career without either hit singles or exploiting past glories.
While this latest concert was tied to the release of a compilation marking the ten-year recording history of Love and Money, Grant's loyal following are every bit as likely to have turned out to hear the singer's fine recent work as any archaeological curios.
In fact it is salutory how dated and synthetic Love and Money's Eighties white funk--on the night restricted to "Hallelujah Man"--now sounds. The band's improving material with the passing years mirrored Grant's progression into a rootsier, subtler, more atmospheric and personal vein; in short, the more miserable the singer got, the better he sounded, and this concert leaned pleasingly towards the really fed-up stuff.
But the best of it came at the beginning, opening with the delicate lacework of "Sawdust In My Veins" and drawing heavily on the splendid recent album of that title. Like Grant's passionate baritone, which has swagger as well as depth and a pin-sharp falsetto, the mannered misery of the songs is consistently reined in just the right side of self-parody. Even something like the rib-ticklingly titled "I Can't Stop Bleeding" is so full of intense, desparate life that it is irresistible, and with Grant squeezing some lovely nasty noises out of his guitar and an eight-piece band providing plenty of muscle, there wasn't a titter to be heard.
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