James Grant & King Of Birds, HAC 25th November

Posted on Sunday 27th November 2016 23:17 by FreckFest

It was Black Friday last Friday, a consumer frenzy where you literally need to knock down people to benefit from the knock down prices. It’s horrible.


Friday night in Ayrshire had similar bargains on offer, albeit of a live music bent and with none of the unpleasantness involved in the retailers’ version. Over in Kilmarnock, Primal Scream were doing their thing in the Grand Hall. Down the coast in Troon, the Winter Storm festival was in full swing, featuring some of the most popular heavy metal acts in the UK. Further afield, forgotten 80s idols Hipsway were playing their first of two sold-out shows at the Glasgow ABC.


It was another 80s great who filled the HAC for our latest show. Given the choice of musical entertainment on offer elsewhere, it was brilliant to find we had yet another sold-out show on our hands, with a waiting list in double figures eager for any returned tickets. James Grant is a crowd puller, and no mistake. As the lead singer with Love And Money, he provided an alternative to the scratchy, lo-fi guitar scene that was helping put Scotland on the map. More interested in substance over style (although, in his mile-high quiff and 501s, he was the very essence of style), Love And Money produced highly accomplished music. They worked with top producers, recorded in LA, New York and Tokyo, shot videos in far-flung places and had actual, living and breathing Top 40 hits. While the full band make occasional, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them performances, James has kept his name in the frame by maintaining a solo career that has seen him a fixture on the live circuit and at high profile events such as Celtic Connections.


Such is the quality of his back catalogue, it would be easy to write a 15-20 song set-list of material he DIDN’T perform, but James chose his set well on Friday. It was loose, languid and packed full of songs from every stage of his career. Forever self-deprecating and melancholic, and bordering on the morose at times, the set was a musical travelogue through life. With his own father ill in hospital, the laughs were sometimes thin on the ground, and with an encore of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah added for good measure, you might be forgiven for suggesting this show was a very maudlin, downbeat affair. Far from it.


James is an excellent raconteur, regaling the audience with stories from his childhood; the wonder of Al Jolson, his sister’s music collection, budgies, his father’s distrust of a ‘career’ in ‘pop music’. Maybe it’s the venue, but we’re lucky with our shows. The intimate atmosphere and appreciative audience lend themselves to the sort of gig where it’s OK to kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy what’s unravelling in front of you. “How’s your dad doing, James?” asked one of the audience between songs. “He’s actually in the hospital today,” came the reply. “Sorry to hear that,” was the response from another audience member. Up the road in Killie, I can’t imagine that Bobby Gillespie was having similar interactions in-between Rocks and Loaded.  Friday’s show was booked on the back of James’ appearance in the HAC this time last year. Will he be back next year? Absolutely.


We can’t go without mentioning the excellent support act King Of Birds. Like a Scottish Everly Brothers, they provide close-knit harmonies welded onto well-crafted acoustic tunes of the sort REM or Lloyd Cole had multiple hits with. Forever the bridesmaid and never the bride, next year may well see them finally headline in their own right. Going on the amount of positive praise for them all over social media immediately after Friday’s show, this would be the next logical step.


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