James Grant admits early in his set to a bout of pre-show nerves, which, to even his most ardent supporters, is blatantly obvious. It is his combined
nerves and shyness which has always made his live performances, either as a
solo artist or with his two bands Love and Money and Friends Again, slightly
uncomfortable affairs. A shoe-gazing inwardness in the latter was replaced
by the brash arrogance of Love and Money's early career. Only in their
latter days did he come to some kind of acceptable balance.
His two solo albums, from which the great majority of tonight's songs stem, have continued to walk this tightrope. The songs are clearly literate and well-referenced, yet too often sound like they come from a different era. It would appear that Grant has listened to little new music in the past decade, yet he still finds time to denounce his contemporary's Texas', huge success.** Bitter? Almost certainly. A good thing? Not entirely.
The most frustrating aspect of the show is that he clearly knows the component parts of a great pop song. A string quartet adds texture to the sound, while the playing is generally restrained and tasteful, disturbed only by an over-reliance on guitar solos.
When it works, as on "Jacqueline's Dream" (sic) and "My Thrawn Glory," it makes for truly excellent pop music, but too often it is ponderous and mildly schizophrenic. "I Don't Know Anything About You (sic)" has a fantastic Jimmy Webb-style chorus, but seems to run out of ideas by the onset of the inevitable solo.
The Love and Money songs, especially "Lips Like Ether" and "Winter" in particular, stand up well to rearrangements and there is little doubt that Grant remains a local hero of sorts.
However, the nerves coupled with the bitterness and sometimes self-pitying lyrics stop this from being the re-affirmation of his considerable skills that it ought to be."
**Steve Hickman contributed this review to this site; having attended the show, he noted, "What James said was something like 'Sharleen and the boys are OK if you're buying a pair of trousers, but some of us like music that affects us on a more emotional level'. I thought this was quite funny, as most of the audience did, and it didn't come across as 'bitter.' John Williamson is entitled to his opinion, but doesn't help his credibility by getting the titles of two of James' new songs wrong, together with the name of the venue..."
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