A busy, bustling, O2 Academy in Leeds hosted two very talented solo artists, HANA and Grimes. A hugely diverse group of people filled the venue, from students to the very eccentrically dressed to members of other well known bands. The evening began with a captivating set from rising star HANA.
HANA’s set was simplistic, beautiful and engaging. Her stage presence is delicate but she has incredibly emotive vocal power. There is a soothing nature to her voice which comforts you and draws you in and makes you feel what she feels. The backing music is fairly irrelevant to the performance as even if she had performed acapella it would have created the same atmospheric tension.
In stark contrast HANA was followed by a very upbeat Grimes who seemed to be constantly bouncing around the stage and whipping up the audience into a higher states. From seeing her music videos I had expected her to arrive in some elaborate Mad Max: Fury Road inspired outfit but she looked very much like a pop star.
Grimes’ set began with just a solo dancer appearing on stage and teasing the crowd with an avant garde routine during the intro to “Genesis”, Grimes then arrived with a few more dancers in tow. She was a bundle of energy from start to finish, and her intentions were clear as the tempo and intensity of “Genesis” had been ramped up from the album version. As you would expect there was no conformity amongst the talented dance troupe, they were a variety of shapes and styles. Whilst there were some choreographed routines, which Grimes herself joined in with, each dancer had obviously been allowed a degree of artistic licence and freedom of expression.
The incredibly vibrant Canadian proved herself not only to be a talented and creative songwriter and vocalist but also a very competent multi-instrumentalist. She regularly switched from keyboard to synth to guitar and drums, often during the course of one track. This insistence on playing all the instruments required, combined with lively choreography, and energetic singing created a doubt that Grimes’ vocals may not have been 100% live. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect all these elements to combine without the vocal performance dropping, but I had a hunch that there was a recorded backing vocal in place to compensate for any possible blips. 100% live or not Grimes is all about putting on a show and everyone in attendance will have been undoubtedly entertained.
It was a set which proved she is an eternally evolving creative force. During the course of the evening she spanned far more genres than I had expected, although her live performance seemed much more steeped in pop than her releases. Mid way through Grimes played her remix of her own track “Be A Body” showing her eagerness to develop and progress. The set started on a high point and gradually built towards the pounding finale of “Kill v. Maim”.
We got a rare glimpse into the two sides of Grimes. During the performances she was feisty, confident, and enjoyed working the room, but in the brief pauses between tracks were the other side of her character. Between songs she seemed almost nervous and timid, and lacking the confidence which oozed from her during the songs. This only endeared her to the audience even more, and they clearly loved her.