Bohemian Rhapsody takes over the PA in a bold choice of opening music, but Grandson knows his audience well – young and old, alternative and pop, fans alike belt the entire song together. And when it finishes, a hooded figure appears on the park bench, which is positioned on a riser, next to the drum kit and between two old-looking streetlamps. Suspended across them, a street sign reading ‘I love you, I’m sorry’ – the title of his latest album.
But before we dig into Grandson’s performance, we need to talk about Swim School – an alternative three-piece from Edinburgh, joining Grandson for the UK leg of his European tour. Relatively new to the wider UK alt scene, Swim School are young yet full of energy that 90s rock and grunge fans will like. Combined with a healthy dose of modern indie, Swim School set the scene perfectly before Grandson’s set, which was heavier than I expected – to my enjoyment.
“We came all the way from Los Angeles to rock your faces off,” announces Grandson following openers Two Along Their Way and Drones, two tracks from his latest album, with Drones being one of the key singles, and one of my favourites. His highly-produced sound translates to the stage with an emphasis on drop-tuned heavy guitar riffs and hard drum grooves, which take priority in the live sound. I’m taken off-guard by the level of energy Grandson throws at us, and the crowd throws it right back.
“I wrote this album when I was losing my mind. Can we lose our minds together?”
Grandson sits on the bench, a look of pride and bliss on his face. He’s so damn happy with the crowd’s reception. Did he not expect his Manchester fans to go this hard?
“Manchester, what the fuck …” He recounts a humorous anecdote about how his tour plan required him to decide between playing Liverpool or Manchester, teasing the audience who responded in raucous laugher and boos, all in good nature.
True to his music’s nature, Grandson isn’t afraid to bring the energy down. He gives a speech about how everyone in the room can trust each other because we all share his experiences. Grandson loves his fans and explains that he wants us to love each other, because ‘Grandson’ isn’t just him, it’s everyone – his band, the fans …
“Grandson is a political project by nature.” He shares his frustration about how he believes we are all better connected because we know each other through the internet, and consequently, we are more likely to understand one another. But the people making the decisions about our lives haven’t grown up with that technology. It’s frustrating and easy to get angry about, but Grandson brings a level of positivity to his message, similar to the way I have seen Enter Shikari – another politically-focused band – do so, through uplifting music and community.
One song comes after another, and the crowd knows all the words. Grandson counts down through his older tracks, singles from as far back as 2016, including Best Friends, Overdose and War, going through ‘levels of difficulty’, and the crowd succeeds each one.
“Manchester … how has it taken us this long to play here?”
The night ends with Blood // Water, but I can’t avoid mentioning the beautiful and emotional rendition of Heather – another of my favourite tracks from the album. A story about love and loss and regret, sung in the crowd, with not just fans but friends who understand.
Photos: Courtney Turner