London Grammar: O2 Apollo, Manchester

With two albums under their belt in their five-year existence as a band, London Grammar are the “it” band in the indie-pop scene. When we heard at Counterfeit Magazine they were popping into town, we made sure to save the date and check what all the fuss was about.

Although most people will recognise them as the soundtrack to a major designer brand perfume’s, with “Hey Now”, they were actually big before that, when they took Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” and turned it into one of the most acclaimed covers of all times, straight out of the soundtrack for “Drive” by Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn – that’s when I got to know who they were, and absolutely fall in love with them.

Having listened to both their albums from beginning to end, I felt more than prepared going into my first live experience with them, but what came out of it was something completely unexpected. They take the “live” business very seriously and their performance is a combination of visual and audio that makes you feel as though you were born a synesthetic.

The venue was sold out, there was a lot of frenzy outside to get in – lots of people trying to get a last-minute ticket, big groups of friends, excited faces. Once in, you could see the O2 Arena in its full glory, the beautiful hand-painted curved ceilings, the old VIP booths right above the stage and completely full seats, with people who couldn’t get seats together going up the stairs on the upper floor, to the back corridor, to enjoy the show together, excited about the possibility to dance to the sound of London Grammar’s melodic moves.

They start playing around 15min past 9pm and the air is electrifying, you can feel the energy flowing as the excitement of 3500 people exploded into claps, fan cries and high-pitched whistling.

There’s a healthy balance between songs from first and second album and there is a lot of singing along eco in the background, quickly picked-up by the band’s lead singer Hanna Reid, who projects the microphone onto the crowd and gets an enthusiastic rise of them.

By the third song they go into their main hit “Hey Now”, which felt like a choir as every single person in the venue was singing along, turning it into a bonding moment for everyone in that moment.

The band, composed as well by Dan Rothman and Dominic “Dot” Major, are very interactive with the public chatting in between songs, about Manchester, about their tour during the summer, about how good it feels to come back home.

Along comes the moment where they talk about how they did so many summer festival gigs, where they met this cute couple whom they’ve befriended and that happened to be in the venue tonight. What followed next was a highly unexpected marriage proposal from bang-on the middle of their concert, which they had been planning along with groom-to-be Liam. Everyone jumped out of their seats to look at a very nervous young man proposing to a teary, accepting bride-to-be who said yes, rubberstamped by Hanna shouting “SHE SAID YES!” onto the microphone with a huge round of applause roaring across the room.

“Rooting For You” is the song that follows, acapella, which is about loving and caring for that someone special, which they have to restart after an emotional Hanna apologises for having her voice break due to tears on account of the proposal, which the fans welcomed with a warm round of applause acknowledging the same feeling.

Her voice is intense and clear and it has the power of an opera singer and the mellowness of a sweet jazz and combined with the stage’s light arrangement with projections pulsating at the same rhythm as their music, with images of sunsets, sunrises and planetariums, they’ve managed to create a whimsical environment where their music rises to art level.

There is an encore with 5 songs and they finish on an upbeat note with “Metal & Dust”, asking everybody to get up and dance along, which the crowd does with pleasure.

From beginning to end it felt like there was a bond between stage and seats, band and fans and there was this calm in the air, filled with moments where eyes are closed singing along to favourite songs and arms are swinging in the air in unison with the lyrics.

London Grammar have the ability to make you relax in one song to make you get up on the next one, with a complex set of melodic pieces that fly between church choir and club set, which makes them the more interesting.

Granted, they didn’t play my favourite “Nightcall”, but my heart was full and every minute of that concert was pure musical wander.

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