It is almost a year now since the Manchester riots. A night memorable to some for more than just the mindless looting of shops and destruction of property in the city centre and to me at least, that night will be remembered for a spectacular performance by Grimes on her Manchester debut supporting Tri Angle’s How To Dress Well. The air around the deaf institute that night was abuzz with hushed chatter about what was actually going in the centre of town. Plumes of smoke could be seen and police helicopters circled all around. Most of all I remember the tension in the air before Grimes came to stage. She had the unenviable job of distracting the half full Deaf Institute from the surreal happenings around us and she did it with a frantic set full of tracks from Geidi Primes and Halfaxa. She looked nervous and there were little hiccups throughout – punctuated with laughter, never taking herself too seriously at all. The set was mesmerising and she left the stage in a fit of giggles and excitement. It was a great show.
A lot has happened to Grimes since then; picked up by 4AD for her latest album, Visions, she has been given the ability to refine her sound, tour the world and gain primetime Radio One and 6Music airplay of her singles Genesis and Oblivion, She has graced the cover of Dazed And Confused among other fashion and music magazines and she seems to be playing every major summer festival you could think of as well as an ongoing, grueling, world tour.
Tonight, Islington Mill is a sold out sweat-box by the time Grimes takes the stage. She opens up the night by asking for the lights to be dimmed, if not turned off altogether, there are murmurs behind me calling her out as a Diva. Once the ambiance is sorted out Grimes launches into her very own sound. It would be easy to list Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and even Enya to describe her sound when in reality she’s just doing her own thing and simply touching on any of the names above as reference points while taking in diverse genres like Pop and Techno.
It’s a much more refined affair than the previous show and she doesn’t explore her back catalogue, sticking almost strictly to material from Visions. The show is once again frantic and hectic, you find yourself believing in her passion for the music she’s making as she bounces around the stage. It definitely feels safer than her last gig and the crowd thins after playing her big radio singles towards the start of her set but there’s still the unpredictability lurking as she screams ‘Fuck’ over the top of Oblivion after messing a part of it up. The moments of constructed chaos Grimes creates are where she seems to excel the most and as she taps away at samplers with enthusiasm the room moves with her as her sounds descend into spiraling white noise.
Grimes’ encore is introduced by telling the sweaty mass in front of her that she usually fucks this one up but she wows the crowd with yet another electronic pop gem. It’s much louder than the rest of the set, like she’s turned herself up to 11 and like a firework she burns out bright and with a bang.
Grimes is back in Manchester for another Now Wave gig in August and if this is anything to go buy tickets will sell out in advance, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gig got moved to a much bigger venue too.