Live review: London Grammar @ Newcastle City Hall

By Carys Roberts

I will admit that I didn’t know where to begin with writing this review, as London Grammar’s concert was one of the most special concerts I have been to, in a kind of emotional, abstract way that it is difficult to put into words. Despite not having listened to London Grammar extensively before, and despite my +1 not being able to make it, I still had a wonderful time and would urge you to go and see London Grammar if you get the chance!

As soon as the band took to the stage with opening song ‘Who Am I’, I had a lump in my throat – although I was not familiar with the song, the band’s ethereal and somehow nostalgic sound, accompanied by lead vocalist Hannah Reid’s breath-taking voice, affected me emotionally: Hannah has possibly got the most incredible voice I have ever had the privilege of hearing live. Although the band are fantastic as a whole, creating an impressively enormous sound considering they are made up of only three members, Hannah’s voice really is the essence that makes and carries London Grammar. She gave a surprisingly modest performance for someone so talented, which I was slightly disappointed by, in the sense that she stood very still onstage most of the time. I was hoping for a more dynamic performance from a band of their reputation, and I would have appreciated a more physically invested presence from her to match her strong, emotive vocals. However, despite the rather static performance, I still felt a very strong connection with Hannah’s vocals and the songs themselves.

The crowd’s response throughout the evening speaks for itself as to the quality of the performance, and I couldn’t help but look around the room in awe of the incredible atmosphere, which was electric yet intimate. You could have heard a pin drop during Hannah’s soaring a cappella vocals at the beginning of ‘Rooting For You’; I’ve never seen a crowd so captivated. Later on, whilst the crowd waited for the encore, the room was filled with a deafening uproar of cheers and whistles. The band commented on the beauty of the venue and Hannah said: “it’s like an extended living room, I feel really relaxed, I’m having a great time!”; this mutual enjoyment and connection between the band and the audience really contributed to the concert’s special atmosphere. London Grammar’s realness onstage was another thing that made the concert an especially raw, emotive experience – the way they spoke very casually and openly to the audience, unlike the kind of scripted prattle that some bands tend to demonstrate. For instance, Hannah made the humble confession that she needed to sit down to help her reach the highest note during ‘Rooting For You’.

The sensational technical production also made a significant contribution to the concert’s quality; I have never seen accompanying production enhance a performance in such a fitting way as the lighting and backdrop did for London Grammar. Early in the performance, I was imagining Hannah’s voice echoing out across the whole world, and later during the song ‘Big Picture’ (a personal favourite of mine), an image of the rotating planet earth was projected onto the backdrop! These images seemed to perfectly match the ones that the songs conjured up in my mind, which made it an especially emotive performance, as it provided a visual linking of the live music onstage and your internal, emotional experience of it. I definitely felt that London Grammar’s music, very anthemic in nature, is intended to be appreciated live in it’s full, enthralling glory.

Despite the slightly static physical performance and the tendency for London Grammar’s songs to sound a bit ‘samey’ to an unfamiliar ear, the concert boasted glittering production, an enthralling atmosphere, and a stunning vocal performance from Hannah Reid; it was a very special concert and I would recommend catching London Grammar on their next tour!

Photograph: Justin Higuchi via Flickr

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