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Music review: London Grammar - 'Smooth grooves and catchy chords spell success'


London Grammar may have only formed last year but they have fast become the band à la mode of the UK. The three young Londoners nabbed the No 2 spot with their debut album, If You Wait, have a UK tour and a catchy collaboration with Disclosure on “Help Me Lose My Mind”.

As one the hottest new music acts, it is no surprise that their Electric Brixton show has sold out tonight and that for many, it is the first time they have seen the band perform live.

Twenty-three-year-old lead singer Hannah Reid transfixes the room from the start, emanating a vulnerability that is released as a chilly ambience on “Hey Now”. The silent room focuses on the effortless rises and falls of her voice as she sings with a clear, impassioned delivery. It is an incredible instrument to behold.

“Stay Awake” and “Flickers” see Dan Rothman’s sparse guitar-lines and Dot Major’s synths and drums creating intricate, undulating  patterns that move with Reid’s voice and evoke a melancholic pop that  is somewhat reminiscent of Portishead, circa 1996.

Tear-jerker “Wasting My Young Years” and “Strong” are touching renditions of youthful angst while a smooth cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” comes perfectly timed to move the show from something sullen to swinging. “Metal and Dust”, too, jolts the crowd into cheers, bringing about an energetic shuffling of feet.

The simple black background and staging reflects the tone of their music. Despite some nods to The xx’s brand of atmospheric, melancholic pop, there is none of the branded artwork, flashy lights or smoke effects that they use to up their dramatic tone.

The simplicity of London Grammar’s staging works with the haunting subtlety of these songs.

The group end tonight’s show with a brilliant rendition of Chris Isaak’s slow-burning love song “Wicked Game”. Reid’s anguished vocals  reverberate within their cavernous sound that makes for a sparse but moving tribute to the original.

London Grammar’s songs, at times life-affirming, at times heart-wrenching, are always completely compelling with a star like Reid at the helm.