September 30th, 2016

Gig review: Grimes at the Birmingham O2 Academy

Updated: 2:47 pm, Jun 28, 2016

Words: Tara Hawes                                                                                       Pictures: Anu Shukla      

WHEN we heard Canadian multi-instrumentalist Grimes, was coming to Birmingham’s O2 Academy last Friday night, there was no way we were going to miss the opportunity to catch her live set…

In a world of plastic pop,Grimes aka Claire Boucher is a rare jewel in the electro-trash crown. The artist not only writes and performs all her own material – but she also records her own vocals and plays the instruments on her tracks.

By the time we got to the venue, it was already 8pm so we’d missed her support act Hana who, from all reports, was well worth getting in early for.

Still, we had just enough time to grab a drink and find a spot before Grimes leapt onto the stage with her dancers to open with REALiTi and going into Flesh without Blood – and with its chorus ‘just let me go’ – surely a top nomination for a post-Brexit break-up song if ever there was one.

Her incredible on-stage energy was only magnified by that of her dancers and the crowd – and within three tracks, she had turned the downstairs of the O2 into a full-on tribal rave.

Next up was Go, her collaboration with Blood Diamonds used on the sci-fi drama Orphan Black with its awesome bass-y hook.

Genesis got the main dance floor bouncing while California took things on a ‘poppier’ trip with echoes of Gwen Stefani – an incredibly cynical song directed at her haters – specifically US music website Pitchfork with lyrics ‘California/You only like me when you think I’m looking sad/California/I didn’t think you’d end up treating me so bad.’

Indeed, Grimes has had so much online abuse she disabled the comments on her recent music videos, which made Oblivion even more special with just as many guys as girls singing along to a tune about her being attacked.

Grimes has several musical personas and soon Squeekie was in the house, reminding us more of Blondie or even Madonna. Despite her shyness she managed to chat to the crowd, her soft Canadian accent contrasting with the intense energy of her music: “I know it’s a messed up day for the whole world,” she said, “but we’re in it together.”

It’s over all too soon and back down to her natural shyness. She plays her encore straight after the main set – Kill V. Main – evidently her favourite track off her fourth album Art Angels and written from the perspective of a trans-gender vampire.

It’s not every day you see such a talented indie artist break into the mainstream – but if Grimes keeps on writing and performing music like this, she might just knock Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift off their perfectly crafted plastic pop thrones.