Let me tell you about John Grant. He was the lead singer of a Denver band called the Czars. As a member of that band, he sang two of my all-time favorite songs, “Drug” and “Lullabye 6000”, and was responsible for three of my most-loved albums.* By the time I saw the Czars perform for the first time, everybody else in the band had quit and John Grant was the only member left. I saw him perform as the Czars in front of an audience numbering less than a dozen. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but still kind of sad. Nobody with a voice like John Grant’s should have to play before such a meager audience.
Four years went by. The Czars name has been jettisoned and John Grant is now recording and performing under his own name. His first solo album is called Queen of Denmark. It came out in April and quickly rose up my personal Album of the Year charts (yes, I have charts) and knocked the Jimmy Silva tribute into the #2 slot. Queen of Denmark is a damn fine album and comes close to topping anything John recorded with his old band.
So I got all excited when I heard John Grant would be opening for Midlake at the Southgate House. I got a little less excited when Jason Lytle (formerly of Grandaddy) was added to the bill, but I was still pretty excited. I headed on down very early so I wouldn’t miss any of the show. I got one of those seats up in the balcony…you know, the ones that hang right over the stage. I sat down and proceeded to get blown away by John Grant’s voice. I was staggered by his baritone over and over again for the entire 45 minute set. I’m sorry, but I lack the words to properly express how I feel about the man’s voice. It makes me jealous. I want it. If I lived in the Age of Quests, I would drop everything and steal the golden pony (or whatever) out of some god’s personal stable (or wherever) just to get my hands on that voice. Then I would probably get all cocky with my new-found singing talent and the whole thing would backfire on me and I’d get turned into an animal that lives in mud. It would be worth it, though, just to have had that beautiful sound come out of me for a little while.
What’s this about a golden pony? Here, look at some pictures and try to forget all that.
Okay, back to the music. John Grant played nine songs. He started off with a song called “Fireflies” from the Queen of Denmark bonus disc. I have no idea how a song that good could get relegated to a bonus disc, but that’s where it ended up. He then sang four more Queen of Denmark songs, starting off with “Sigourney Weaver” and ending with the title track. Everybody seemed to think that “Sigourney Weaver” was funny, but beneath the surface there are some rather intimate lyrics about awkwardness and social alienation. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh. From there, we got two Czars’ songs, “Los” and “Drug”. Hearing “Drug” again was worth the $15 admission. I didn’t even mind that the woman behind me chatted through the whole thing and the dude to my right was snap, snap, snapping away with his gigantic professional camera. After that highlight, John Grant sang “Where Dreams Go to Die” before wrapping up the set with a strange song that featured a bunch of pre-recorded blips and beeps. It had an ABBA feel to it…except for all the explicit sex talk, of course.
Setlist: Fireflies/Sigourney Weaver/Marz/Silver Platter Club/Queen of Denmark/Los/Drug/Where Dreams Go to Die/You Don’t Have To (Pretend to Care)
I stuck around for Jason Lytle despite the fact that his brand of stoner Casio-folk no longer interests me all that much. I felt I had to at least hear the guy live because I’ve always regretting missing Grandaddy’s performance opening for Elliott Smith back in 2000. That was one crowded show and Grandaddy had finished their set by the time I made it through the line. So I stuck around for Jason Lytle. He was okay. That’s about as positive as I can be based on what I heard. He probably would’ve been better if his nasally whine hadn’t followed John Grant’s majestic baritone.
The headliner for this show was Midlake. I have three of their CDs, but their live performance didn’t do anything for me. I left after the second song. Hey, that’s not enough time to judge them, you say? Well, the two songs lasted a total of 14 minutes and they both included flutes. As a matter of fact, the second song featured two flutes. I’m sorry, but no rock song needs two flutes. Fuck that. I went home.
Here are the rest of the pictures:
* = The Ugly People -vs- The Beautiful People (2001), Goodbye (2004), and the covers album, Sorry I Made You Cry (2005)