Grimes - Heaven, London 05/09/12
Photos by Tom Griffiths
Seeing Grimes will always be an experience above a gig. Her musical performance on stage is perhaps questionable – not so much her music but the amount of craft that happens on stage is minimal, with most of it being played on a few sample pads, a synth and a drum machine – but this isn't what people come to see Grimes for. Grimes' music portrays a feeling of getting lost in a sugar fuelled high and listening to your weirdest records at the wrong speed, and her live performance gives that impression of strangeness perfectly.
Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch most of the openers set – Majical Cloudz - though the to tracks we saw the duo play to finish their set seemed somewhat lacking. Their minimalist sound didn't seem to translate well on stage; their few piano clinks followed by sub bass does not an enthralling song make. It's hard to cast a judgement without having heard them on record (I'm certain it'll work a lot better when you can hear the singers voice in clarity) but in this live set up it failed to make an impact.
After a very swift turn around we were treated to a set by London local Becoming Real who never fails to impress. His set, full of honed crashes and highs of noise set to constant rhythm, would, on any other night, have had Heaven bouncing; alas tonight it was not meant to be. The crowd amassed for the show were more of the head nodding type than the jumping type which lead to a rather surreal scene of a sea of earnestly nodding heads attached to folded arms and static bodies.
When listening to Grimes it's quite easy to imagine her in her bedroom at 1am recording the songs, singing to herself after watching anime and listening to her record collection and dreaming of her perfect gig. So when her name flashes up on the projection screen and we get a pole dancer performing down the centre of the stage while drones ring out in the background you get the impression of that scrapbook coming to life. It's silly and pointless but it's fun and if you can take anything from Grimes' music it's that.
On stage Claire takes to the microphone and small station with a sampler and synth and begins, running through a couple of tracks (Symphonia IX and Vanessa) before saying hello to the audience. With everything set up on stage, projections of anime, Ghibli films and arty shoots playing in the background and with her dancer behind her it felt like the world we were watching was just her mind, and we were there observing, if not part of, her imagination.
While she doesn't do an awful lot on stage away from her pads, synth and mic she still entertains. Running into her third song with a vocoded script of a noise complaint against her by a neighbour she proceeds to let lose with a torrent of pounding tracks from her 3rd album Visions. While 'Obilivion' was always going to get the crowd going, the standout for myself was 'Be A Body', which saw her lose the pole dancer and get joined by two guys on stage decorated with flashing swords and hair ribbons.
Despite a few technical glitches, which in part were down to her gear being stolen in Manchester a few weeks ago, she delivered a stunning set. Her euphoric encore of 'Phone Sex' (a Blood Diamonds track she guests on), complete with confetti cannons, ended her triumphant set. What became apparent this evening is that Claire Boucher is every bit the pop-not-pop star she pertains to be and she has the potential for so much more.