London Grammar- O2 Apollo, Manchester – 17/10/17

Prog-rock support band Lo Moon are probably easiest described as a more guitar-heavy London Grammar. Inflections of 80s style synths are abetted by formulated bass double strokes, tom rolls and reverberated snare hits – a distinct style delivered by non-member drummer Sterlin Laws who joins the trio live.

The instrumentation evidently plays a lead role in Lo Moon’s success as London Grammar’s touring support; their spacious, minimalist style of play makes them sound like a band who lots of people can’t get enough of. So good for them that they get to play to those people for a tour’s worth. However – the rest was a senseless sensation, with mostly unintelligible lyrics. Lo Moon were the correct context for the evening – but will struggle to earn relevance if their purpose never surpasses the pursuit of dramatic ambiance.

A fifteen-minute interval sees the bringing forth of London Grammar’s compact setup. Walls of launchpads, synth boards and electric keys stand between each group member’s designated onstage space – with the biggest section devoted to multi-method beat provider, Dot Major.

Darkness ensues, and a sea of phones rise to greet the band as their people scream. Three musicians walk in the stage’s twilight; they stand ready, beyond a bright burning sphere that sits proudly as Hannah Reid floods the room acapella, every fibre haunted as she sings “…And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you”. Her vast-ranging voice commands immediate attention – and not just in ‘Rooting For You’, but through the strict consistence and passion that she applies to every note explored throughout the evening. Reid’s talent is what stands at the centre of her showmanship – and her devotion to her music is what communicates her appreciation most powerfully.

‘Flickers’ follows, giving room for the other two to prove that London Grammar is band effort. Alteration of the initially mellow song choice comes in the form of trance-like tones – and Major’s authoritarian switch to acoustic drum kit as the track builds.

Slick-fingered Dan Rothman paints a colourful display of harmonics between his Fender guitars and microphone. Quite useful, also, is how he reminds Reid of the last time they visited Manchester for Parklife. She expresses remorse for the duration of time taken since finishing If You Wait’s tour, and releasing Truth Is a Beautiful Thing. They trio also note how grateful they are for the opportunity to be touring the UK again. It’s unexpected how their creativity reaches beyond what’s produced from the studio.

London Grammar’s honesty is expressed not just through instrumentation – but in composition, too. ‘Non-Believer’ tells of “what we are” and the difference in “what we need”. A rose-gold curtain pulses open to the beat, smoke breaching the light as scenes of industrial pollution are projected behind. Visuals also include soundwaves that merge into a horizon of trees, and a montage of mountain ranges. It’s all beautiful, as tangible as the song-writing that delivers messages of strength through loss, beauty through harshness – and light through darkness.

The truth often highlights imperfections – and one is forgiven after London Grammar return for the encore. Reid stops and shouts: “Wait! Stupid encore – I went and fucked it up…”, and mutters more self-depreciation under her breath. But this just proves that the performance is as honest as the “thank you”‘s that Hannah gives back to their adorers. It’s evident that London Grammar’s time away was spent worthwhile. Their music and complexity harnesses everyone.