It’s an amazing feat to sell-out two nights on the other side of the world simply based on the merit of your debut album but that’s exactly what London Grammar have done. The band have had a stellar 18 months, which has seen them transform from shy indie sweethearts into an act more than comfortable filling the huge stage of the Hordern Pavilion.
London Grammar were joined at Hordern Pavilion by Dew Process label mates Until The Ribbon Breaks and Wet, two bands more than capable of enjoying success on a London Grammar scale in the future. Brits Until The Ribbon Breaks have a startling intensity onstage. Lead-singer Pete Lawrie-Winfield commanded the crowd with his eyes, staring them down as he pointed his hand with force.
The songs traverse electro-pop and hip-hop but are all bound by dark, brooding undertones. It’s a heavy beginning to the evening, but it’s good to see a band so self-assured so early in their career.
Wet lacked the same self-assurance but made up for it with their endearing nature and expertly crafted indie-pop songs. While lead-singer Kelly Zutrau turned away from the crowd at times, her demeanour suits the band’s airy pop songs. Oddly, more personal songs like Don’t Want To Be Your Girl No More seemed to put her more at ease out front. The band truly drew the crowd in on these quieter moments when the warm, swelling synths married with Zutrau’s voice in full flight.
London Grammar’s front-woman Hannah Reid once had the same shy nature as Wet’s Zutrau but as she stalked onto the stage amidst a flurry of lights and atmospheric synths, it was clear she was a new woman. When the band last toured for Falls Festival, Reid could barely look at the crowd. Now she seems at ease, standing centre stage and belting, her eyes scanning the room.
The band’s extended intro of Hey Now had the crowd waiting with bated breath for Reid to open her mouth, and when she did — with a sequence of impressive runs — the atmosphere was electric. London Grammar’s gentle guitar stabs combined with Reid’s powerful voice make for a beautiful juxtaposition, never clearer than on the melancholic, richly melodic Darling Are You Gonna Leave.
Reid holds a stereotypical British politeness throughout, at one point taking the time to apologise for cancelling their 2014 Splendour In The Grass appearance and for any inconvenience caused.
Since their last appearance in Australia, the band’s stage setup has had a face-lift. They band are now flanked by spectacle, with an elevated string quartet, huge industrial lights and an LED screen.
The quieter moments throughout the night, like Stay Awake and Shyer, tended to put all the emphasis on Reid’s voice, without the instrumental oomph to really create a “moment”. When they ramped things up with a simple beat, like on Wasting My Young Years and during a short detour from Flicker to Disclosure’s Help Me Lose My Mind, things were far more memorable, and the singalong during fan-favourite Strong was a sight to behold.
In a set that spanned only 12 songs, an encore seemed hardly necessary but the band popped off stage for less than a minute and returned with the hushed If You Wait. They packed on the drum n’ bass stylings for closer Metal & Dust, delivering the most energised part of the show. As the lights strobed, it was clear that the band had put a lot of work in to improve their stage presence and it had for the most part worked.
London Grammar delivered a set that was part beauty, part dazzle and part heartbreak. For those who were enamoured with the album, that’s all they could’ve asked for.