Concert Review: John Grant with Royal Northern Sinfonia Streamed Concert
My name is Marianne Sice, I’m one of Sage Gateshead’s Young Trustees and a member of its Youth Forum which is made up of young people connected to the organisations programme or its partners. I am also currently studying on the MA in Creative Arts Practice Culture Lab, Newcastle University.
The Youth Forum meets six times a year to develop ideas for activity and events. Before Covid swept in, we had been working on plans for this year’s CoMusica Presents which was due to take place next month. I’m currently working together with the Young Trustees at Northern Stage to connect with other Young Trustees in cultural venues throughout the country to see what we can do to support our communities and keep them going through this time.
It’s great to be able to get different voices heard at Sage Gateshead so when I got asked to write a short review of the John Grant RNS performance, I rose to meet the challenge!
Review – Live Stream: John Grant & Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead – 14 June 2020 by Marianne Sice
On Friday 14 June we were given the chance to relive the astounding collaborative performance of American singer-songwriter John Grant and Royal Northern Sinfonia at Sage Gateshead as part of their sold-out tour in 2014 in a very special livestream shown in aid of the #saveourvenues campaign.
As soon as the lights went out and the trance-like synth began to reverberate throughout the auditorium, the crowd fell silent and an atmosphere of intensity and anticipation was felt that would stay present the whole night. Opening with ‘You Don’t Have To’ Grant sets the scene for a performance which takes the audience vicariously through the intricacies and challenges of his own personal life (namely his struggles with relationships, addiction and his sexuality) with his open, honest and vulnerable lyrics and powerful delivery (not only through his rich embodied vocal performance but also his performance on synth, feeling absolutely like an extension of his own voice).
The emotion of the music was authentically captured by the fusion of electronics and orchestra (with arrangements by Fiona Brice, also known for her work with bands such as ‘Placebo’) taking us from the bittersweet, nostalgic memory of Grant’s favourite childhood sweetshop in the hypnotic and sensory textures of ‘Marz’ through to the intense desire of his younger self to make his mark on the world in a dramatic performance of ‘Pale Green Ghosts’, which complete with impressive visual effects provided an immersive experience for the audience (and a spectacle for those watching at home!).
Moving on to address darker subject matter, Grant expresses his struggles with his sexuality and the world around him through the brutally honest and ironic lyrics of songs such as ‘Jesus hates faggots’ which built up the audience to fight his corner in songs such as ‘Queen of Denmark’ where I found myself singing along to the angst-fuelled chorus refrain “Why don’t you take it out on somebody else!”.
What was great for the audience at home was being able to get up close and personal with the performers who were thoroughly into the music and gage the atmosphere of the audience present with intricate camera work from Living Indy.
After watching this performance I really felt like I had experienced something special and am more than ready to see this in person when John Grant returns to Sage Gateshead on the 19 of May 2021.
The concert was streamed as a fundraising concert in support of the Music Venue Trust #saveourvenues campaign, set up in response to the urgent financial challenge posed by Covid-19. 10 venues across the country streamed the concert, including Southbank Centre and Bridgewater Hall. It was watch by over 7k people across 17 countries and raised has over 5k.
You can make a donation to the #SaveOurVenues campaign at saveourvenues.co.uk
The Youth Forum is open to young people from across Sage Gateshead and wider partnership programmes, if you are interested in getting involved please contact [email protected]