Once in a while I go to a show and it’s just transcendental. This concert was one of those for me, and, I’d wager to guess, most folks there.
A cold Autumn night in Aarhus set the scene for the seated audience at Atlas. I’ve never been a huge fan of seated shows in the venues here – as eventually you’ll have to make a boob of yourself and venture out to the bar or toilet – and this being Denmark – nobody really wants to sit beside someone they don’t know. Nonetheless though – it worked and people for once, stayed put and shut up for a great hour and ½ with Grant-Lee Phillips.
There was no support – just Phillips coming out wearing “double denim” and toting his huge beautiful Gibson acoustic jumbo. It was just us and him – music in one of its purest forms.
Phillips bounded out on stage and immediately set the tone with his upbeat welcoming and cheery smile. He had the crowd. We were his. He opened with “Holy Irons” from his recent album. It was already evident he was in fine voice and mood as he continued with “Smoke and Sparks” and then his ballad on the trail of tears in North America, “Cry Cry Cry”.
What amazed me at this point – already half a dozen “solo” songs in – is that the crowd weren’t getting restless. Times before when I’ve seen him, the crowd were already baying for “Fuzzy” at this point in the set. It wasn’t like these were deep cuts from his solo catalogue either – whatever he sang last night though, the audience were just enraptured – it felt special for some reason. Phillips had broken a sweat and remarked “If there’s no sweat, then it hasn’t happened yet”.
Phillips burst the “Grant Lee Buffalo” bubble with “Mighty Joe Moon” though and you could almost hear jaws drop. His voice just kept hitting that sweet spot – it’s power at times, close to overloading the mic- going from a near growl, to a powerful wail in nothing flat. After this – seemingly appreciating his crowd he remarked: “You wanna hang out with me in the 90s for a little while?” and continued in to a volley of songs including “Honey Don’t”, “Jupiter And Teardrop” and the incredible “Mockingbirds”.
During “Mockingbirds” I could have died. I have so many wonderful memories of this song growing up – once staying up really late to catch GLB on 120 Minutes (an indie MTV show over 20 years ago) and hearing Phillips do a solo version of this song. It was exactly that unfolding in front of me. Goosebumps. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. He was in fine form indeed – and even threw a couple of jokes out;
“I shouldn’t have loaned all my jewelry to Kim Kardashian”
Now it was request time – and Phillips took ‘em as they came- naturally saving possibly his most beloved of Grant Lee Buffalo’s songs, “Fuzzy” for an encore. It was especially appreciated, because as he relayed in the Sound Of Aarhus interview the other day – he doesn’t normally do it these days – and yes he hit the note.
I couldn’t help thinking- “where did the bloody time go?”. For an hour and a half- we were all sitting in some dusty field in our minds hearing just one man and his guitar. There wasn’t a single bum note, there wasn’t a single minute where you felt Phillips didn’t want to be there, and there was hardly any restlessness among the audience – which my wife remarked, is uncanny for Aarhus unfortunately.
This was a special performance and Phillips endured to shake every hand in the audience and sign every record- making anyone who dared share a special moment with this immense talent. If you missed last night – i’m almost certain we’ll get another chance to see Phillips, however again, this night is going to be hard to top!
Thanks as always to the friendly staff of Atlas for your time and effort making us feel welcome!
"What amazed me at this point – already half a dozen “solo” songs in – is that the crowd weren’t getting restless. Times before when I’ve seen him, the crowd were already baying for “Fuzzy” at this point in the set. It wasn’t like these were deep cuts from his solo catalogue either – whatever he sang last night though, the audience were just enraptured – it felt special for some reason." (5.5/6)