James Grant Review

Posted on Sunday 22nd November 2015 15:05 by FreckFest

The ‘Full House’ signs were up again at the HAC on Friday night for our eagerly-anticipated James Grant acoustic show. With a re-positioning of the sound-desk late on Friday afternoon, we managed to free even more tickets which were quickly snapped up by a grateful few who were on our waiting list. To say there was a buzz about Friday night’s show would be a bit of an understatement. Since booking James back in February, it’s been the HAC show many people have most looked forward to being at.

Since originally parting the ways with his band Love and Money in the early 1990s, singer, songwriter and guitarist James has released five acclaimed solo albums. He would air songs from every aspect of his career at the show.

We’ve worked with all manner of acts at Freckfest, but James is one of the most easy-going and least pretentious artists we’ve had the pleasure to put on. With just two acoustic guitars – one in standard tuning and one in an open tuning - he sound-checked for all of 10 minutes. A quick run through a couple of tunes with one guitar then the other on a terrific version of Rod Stewart’s ‘In A Broken Dream’ (to an empty room, save the sound engineer and a boggle-eyed me) he requested the use of a barstool before deciding he was ready for the night. It takes most acts longer to tune up than it does James to do an entire sound-check….

A welcome late addition to the bill saw Sean C Kennedy provide a half hour’s support slot. Sean was on excellent form, running through many of the tracks that make up ‘77’, his just-released debut LP. The queue of out-of-towners at his merchandise stall at the break confirmed what we in Irvine already know – Sean has the potential to be really well-known on the world stage. But we’ve been telling you that for a while now!

James then sauntered on, lean and lanky, immaculate hair and tailoring and wearing a pair of pop star shades. “I have this terrible sty,” he’d said beforehand. “I’m gonnae take a right slagging if I wear sunglasses indoors!”


As you may have gathered, he isn’t like other acts. Rather than launch straight into a loud and fast audience-pleaser, he begins the night absent-mindedly playing quietly on his guitar while recounting a long drawn-out story on the pitfalls of being in a band when you’re young. He’s very witty, with a dry sense of humour and an eloquent way with a swear word. Had we known in advance, we’d have re-branded as Feckfest for the evening. When he was eventually ready to launch into his opening number, disaster struck. The guitar he was playing wouldn’t play through the PA. Despite numerous attempts at changing leads and jiggling bits and pieces around, it stubbornly refused to work.

We’ll go to Plan B,” announced James after what must’ve seemed like an eternity for both him and Jordan on the mixing desk. “I’ll go of for a bit. The sound engineer can try and get it all working again, and I’ll come back on as if I’ve not been out yet.” For most acts this would have been a disaster, but James dealt with it well. Eventually having to admit defeat, he re-tuned his one good guitar and set off on a meandering trip through his back catalogue. Many songs were preceded by anecdotes; recording in New York, the importance of eating your vegetables, buying old coats at Paddy’s Market, making videos in Tokyo. And all songs were listened to in reverential silence, something James acknowledged at the end.

You can sing along with this one if you like. ‘Though, you’ve been pretty Freckin’ reserved so far, so I’m no’ expectin’ much, truth be told.”

He finished the night on a high, taking audience requests for the encore and giving a rare airing to Love & Money’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ before a rabble-rousing cover of ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

A lesser act might have tried to pin the tech problems from earlier in the evening on someone else, but ever the gentleman, James refused to do so. “Look,” he said. “I’m sorry about the problems earlier on. These things happen. It’s not the fault of the venue or the sound engineer. It might be my guitar. It might not be. I hope I did a good job with what I had.

Just for the record, he did an excellent job with what he had – one guitar, a rich back catalogue of songs and an acerbic, sweary-word enhanced wit. We’ve already booked him for some point next year. Look out for all announcements on our social media feeds and webpage.


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