It was after reading an article about Grimes in Dazed and Confused in September 2015 that I knew she was something special. Because of that, I was determined to experience her music live.
I had heard news about this gig in December but by the time I had got around to purchasing a ticket, the show had completely sold out. In the days leading up to this show, I scrambled around for a second hand ticket, desperate to see the woman described as the spiritual successor to David Bowie. It was worth the scramble. Still battered and injured from seeing Wolf Alice two days prior, I entered Manchester Academy ready for whatever Claire Boucher could throw at me.
I enter the academy at around 8:15 to find Hana on stage. She is stood alone, accompanied by nothing but an attentive crowd and magnificent lights. She stands between what looks to be two keyboards pointed in an arrow towards the crowd, pressing buttons that immediately affect the sounds being produced. Her music is reminiscent of Grimes, a female singer over some exciting electronic music with a punchy bass. However, the crowd appear intrigued by Hana’s music. It is obvious that this is the first exposure of Hana to the majority of the crowd, and because of this, the crowd are stood still. Hana’s music was new and exciting, deserving at least a slight sway. You would’ve expected a few nodding heads considering the similarity to Grimes’ more tranquil songs.
The room then returns into quiet background music and chatter. The crowd is happy, friendly and everyone seems rather excited. I was surprised at the people within the crowd. There were a lot more males than expected, and a few couples aged 30+, which is really good to see. Though, the room was still overrun by glittery girls (which isn’t a bad thing I may add), everyone seemed ready for Grimes. I have to say, I was curious to see how the audience would react to Boucher’s outlet of passion. They refused to move for Hana, but that is a usual thing considering they may not have come to see her. After a good 45 minutes of patience, the room plunged into darkness, followed by the ear-piercing sounds of girls screaming.
Grimes’ more abstract ‘Laughing And Not Being Normal’ became apparent as the crowd slowly ceased screaming. A figure appears to jump up on to the dimly lit stage, placing herself in between the two keyboards. The crowd watch in awe and near-silence, is that really Claire Boucher, Grimes? Three other figures appear on the stage, however their silhouettes are looking somewhat more extravagant. As the first song quiets, so does the audience. Then, the first notes of, my personal favourite, ‘Genesis’ blare. The bass is magnificent, a true experience I could never have imagined at home. Lights begin to shine revealing Grimes with her microphone, Hana with another microphone and two vibrant dancers.
The lyrics within Grimes’ songs always appear to be hidden under layers on layers of samples and synthesisers, but tonight, I heard every lyric. Claire would sing into the microphone, only to be sung back to by the eccentric audience. Songs go by, each one a new experience. Then, ‘Scream’ begins to play (if you don’t know the song, it basically includes a lot of screaming). I don’t know why, but I simply wasn’t expecting the reaction that the audience gave. They all screamed in unison, while at first jarring, it was a magical occurrence. The fans scream along with Grimes, everyone feeling the same pain, a testament to the emotional value behind Claire’s work.
Her stage presence is something new to me. She dances in excitement, her moves are sporadic yet show enthusiasm and emotion. She is feeling each and every note, and there is no denying that. Her dancers also do her songs justice, as they jump around with electricity at the highs of each song, and move synonymously to the sounds. Hana also looks comfortable on stage as she backs up Claire’s vocals. When she is not singing, she dances in time with the other dancers. It is rare you can see the performers having as much fun as the crowd, but you can see Grimes loves being on stage, expressing her emotion through the medium of symphonious sounds and lively movement.
As she takes a break to talk to us the music stops but the crowd does not. She stands on stage in the bright light, with fans screaming and clapping. Her hand over her face, she timidly attempts to speak over the ear-piercing crowd. Inaudible. She simply has to wait until her fans let her speak. You can tell she is accustomed to receiving praise but she still struggles to process it, a modesty that makes Grimes who she is. She proceeds to thank her dancers and Hana, then the music returns.
She plays ‘Go’, her most dance-like, almost dubstep song, and the crowd bounce around in time with the heavy bass. The lights flash, and I see glimpses of Grimes singing her heart out, the dancers giving their all and big wide smiling faces in the crowd jumping up and down. This was just a reminder of why I go to gigs, for this magical experience.
When it comes to the point where it feels like an encore is coming, Grimes enters into a casual dialogue between the audience and herself. She explains that she doesn’t like doing encores due to her stage-fright, and that she would play ‘Kill V. Maim’ as her last song. The crowd respond in unison with a generally happy cheer, showing our acceptance for Claire’s way of doing things. She skips back to her keyboard set up, hits a button and the music begins to blare. ‘Kill V. Maim’ is a fan favourite, the crowd moves with enthusiasm. The electro-pop mixed with grungy, Grimes tones create an unmatched atmosphere. The fans, Claire, Hana and the dancers give it their all for the last song. So did I. If you were there and you saw a guy flying in the air around the centre of the crowd for about 5 seconds, yeah, that was me.
I am glad I scrambled for those second hand tickets. This experience was like no other, while the crowd may have been slightly morbid at times, the music and stage presence made up for it. Grimes is growing so quickly, and I am glad to have seen her in her prime. If you get the opportunity to see her, I definitely recommend.