A gang of mid-fifties ladies in ‘Per Una’ dresses and pseudo-ethnic jewellery sidle up to the entrance of the The Open. They wait austerely for the supporting act. ‘Do you smell that?’ the other replies ‘yes, I think it’s an Aaart Student’. It was a mixed crowd that formed to see one of the most exciting new acts of 2013.
But these were not the middle-class mums who frequent venues in order to chaperone their Topshop clad pre-teens to synth pop concerts. These ladies were here of their own volition, as were a staggering cross section of society. Such a diverse audience is a rare thing, and considering London Grammar only released their debut album in February of this year, unusually so.
Singer Hannah Reid and guitarist Dan Rotham started performing whilst at university together, soon enlisting pianist and sometimes drummer Dot Major. On first impression, there is nothing notably different about Rotham and Major from a growing swarm of twenty somethings propagating ‘Trip-hop’ via SoundCloud, of which Alt-J and The xx have paved the way for over the last year.
There is a quality and originality to London Grammar that cannot be ignored, and its coming from Hannah Reid. Reid’s voice is a smooth soprano that has an edge of vulnerability to it and is hypnotic. The instruments are sparse and yet soulful. Reid’s lyrics speak of a despondency which surrounds her generation. Wasting My Young Years is the ballad which catapulted the group to Mercury Prize favourites. It has a chilling beauty to anyone, but its lyrics resonate with a generation who have grown hopeless with the lack of prospects available to them. In an interview with the Guardian she said ‘‘we’re finding ourselves in a position where it’s impossible to get jobs, and we’re terrified. So many people I know don’t know what to do with their lives.”
The group have been commended for not having a ‘look’, and indeed, when they came on stage it was all jeans and jumpers with none of the glitter or fuss that many female singers go in for at the moment. The band performed against a twee backdrop of tower blocks with twinkling lights. In a whirlpool of twerking misogyny and celebrity hysteria, it’s nice to know that three talented people can make a chart topping album that has intelligence and originality. London Grammar’s success has occurred seemingly overnight. However, it has not been down to a tirade of social media, PR and skimpy clothing that awe and intrigue circulates these three musicians. They have taken a ‘less is more’ approach to everything, including their sound. Reid is chatty on stage, in a very girl-next-door way, and none of the band shy away from talking about an unexciting start of life in the suburbs. Reid went to school in Acton, had a part time job in hairdressers and then a bar. She doesn’t rewrite her biography to include fantastical tragedy, and her lyrics tell tales of relatable hardships, which is why they are so successful.
The band proved that the album was important; however live performance is still the top priority. Reid’s voice alongside stripped back instruments was unforgettable. The lasting impression was awe at the diverse audience, it being phenomenal to see such a cross section of Norwich all enjoying the same thing. Reid’s talent which doesn’t come around often, and to see it live was an immense privilege.