London Grammar @ O2 Apollo
It was in great anticipation that I stood in the O2 Apollo Manchester, a grade II listed building steeped in history as a cinema and variety hall. For me, there is a certain beauty surrounding this venue, having seen greats such as Patti Smith and Christine and the Queens there, due to its capacity to capture the sound of a band and make it resonate in a way that almost harps back to when it was used for much more classical forms of entertainment. Venues with history often make the gig feel all the more special.
Before London Grammar started their set, the elusive Lo Moon came on as support and helped create an almost breath-taking atmosphere that was maintained throughout the concert. Matt Lowell played true to his interview that I had with him before the show (which you can read here!), the band playing their singles This Is It, Thorns and ending beautifully with the original 7 minute version of Loveless, whilst also introducing the audience to some new exciting songs that spoke volumes for the album they plan to release next year. In the audience, a mother with her teenage children inquired about the support to me and seemed to enjoy the set, which made me feel that as a band, Lo Moon are set for success in the way that they capture and transport their audience with the music they create.
When it was finally time for London Grammar to grace the stage, they began their set with Who Am I, an emotive song from the band’s second album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (2017), with visuals that, if I am not mistaken, were of an embryo. In this song, Hannah Reid, sporting a denim jacket and her hair in a ponytail, attacked the song with fervour and captured the audience with this track. Who Am I makes all of us think about ourselves and what we represent, Hannah herself saying that the influences for her lyrics come from desperation over a long-term relationship which can’t be sustained – a fact that a lot of people can relate to and something which makes the song all the more emotive.
The second song was a fusion of Flickers/Help Me Lose My Mind, both songs from London Grammar’s first album If You Wait (2013), Help Me Lose My Mind originally a song featuring Disclosure, but in this concert, was a stripped back version which complimented the former track. “It flickers, it flickers in my head,” the bridge of the song Flickers, representing decisions and obstacles that a person must face in their life, as well as the thought of someone you yearn for, linking to the emotive nature of Help Me Lose My Mind, which referencing the impact someone you like can have on you, to the point that you lose your mind thinking about them.
All of London Grammar’s songs represent an emotion, especially the next song that they played, Wasting My Young Years, which talks of finding out your partner has cheated, and reassessing your life choices. Songs such as these live were powerful, as Hannah Reid hit the top notes and created an atmosphere which mesmerised the audience, as we stood in complete silence whilst she poured her heart out to the piano.
Stay Awake was the next track, and allowed for Hannah to show how her deeper female voice can create a gloomier atmosphere that helps to create the mood of two lovers trying to rekindle after a split. My favourite bit of track is that it is simple, with a steady guitar progression from Dan Rothman and a build up of intensity by the drumming of Dominic Major. With the added visuals, this song was breathtaking live.
After playing Hell To The Liars, another song that relies on the power of piano and synthesiser, and Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, the title track of the second album, London Grammar played one of my favourite songs of their career, Hey Now.
Hey Now created a shift in the atmosphere of the audience, as a well known track, sometimes Hannah couldn’t even be heard past the choir that this song created- it was amazing! Seeing that this had happened, Hannah left parts to the audience to sing, even saying “You’re amazing” and realising the impact their songs were making seemed to make her aim for the high notes in the song with more power.
Next was Sights, another emotive track which references the fact that life can bring you down but that you have to have the strength to keep going. After that was a direct shift in the type of song, Non Believer bringing a much more intensive vibe to the room, talking of a complicated relationship with an ex who is going into a new uncertain relationship that Hannah is warning him against- “all that we are, all that need, they’re different things,”- this part even being sung in harmony and in acapella.
Throughout the set Hannah, Dan and Dominic spoke of their happiness to be in Manchester again, about how amazing the people and the city were, but after Non-Believer Dan spoke of someone they had met at a festival who wanted to “do something tonight”. Suddenly there was a proposal in the audience, the entire audience participating in the happiness that was created during that exchange, even I was ecstatic! This led Hannah to sing the female fiance’s favourite song, Rooting For You, which Hannah referenced as tackling the highs and lows of her singing capacity. Therefore, the band had to start the song again due to her getting emotional, making the whole audience concentrate solely on the fact that Hannah had to sit to sing, the song itself starting with her in acapella due to the power of her voice, the music truly just working around her lyrics. The most powerful thing about this song was the impact that it seemed to have on her, the lyrics almost referencing a confession of love.
The best song to come after such a mesmerising performance was another well known song that the audience could again sing along to, Strong. Strong, like Hey Now, references unrequited love which the Guardian calls “some unspecified pain,” making the song all the more alluring. “I might seem so strong, yeah I might speak so long, I’ve never been so wrong” on an emotional level references anyone who, in the aftermath of a traumatic event or breakup, might realise how fragile they are.
The band then “ended their set” with Big Picture, which seems to reference some kind of epiphany from Hannah, as if she realises how love has wounded her and that now she has seen the Big Picture, she can heal. This song picked up towards the end, but I’m glad they had more to come.
Finally, the encore represented the best of the night, performing Bones of Ribbon and Oh Woman Oh Man.
However, what they ended the night with is what left a lasting impression.
Metal and Dust, the only song that Hannah laughed about, saying: “this is the only song we do that you can really dance to.” The fact that I have now listened to it multiple times shows the lasting effect it had on me, “we argue we don’t fight, stay awake to the middle of the night” referencing the deterioration of a relationship, not by fighting but by more dangerously ignoring the negative points of the relationship yet their impact leading to sleepless nights, Hannah still singing “we don’t argue” as if to try and save the relationship that is already falling apart, as if she is unsure about what is happening. This song was perfect to end on.
All in all, the London Grammar show at the O2 Apollo was important as all their songs have greater meanings to them, incorporating Hannah Reid’s powerful and emotive singing voice with lyrical lessons and emotive rhythmic progressions from Dan Rothman and Dominic Major, which shows how they have poured their hearts into the two records they have released, creating an atmosphere that touched everyone in the audience.
Find out where they are next on tour here!