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Review: Let’s Eat Grandma – 05/04/18 – Riverside, Newcastle

09/04/2018

Let’s Eat Grandma mystified audiences on their first trip out with their otherworldly weirdness. Last week they returned to Riverside for round two…

Deprived of a cellist tonight, Newcastle’s Martha Hill is backed only by drummer Diji Solanke, but such is the wealth of talent between the two, it doesn’t affect what is a cracking set. ‘Mary Jane,’ a folk tale about an arsonist, is soulful and playful, displaying an almost Arctic Monkeys-like swagger. There’s a touch of Winehouse to the poppier numbers, Hill oozing confidence as Solanke keeps the beat and provides glimpses of his talent for human beatboxing. After more sombre numbers like ‘Surrender’ and the soulful jazz of ‘Blindfold,’ ‘Before I Go‘ is a more upbeat track about going on a “sesh” and not wanting to go home. It allows Hill to branch out, freed from the restraints of the acoustic, rocking out with poise and owning the stage. And by the end, nobody wants her to go home either.

There’s no shortage of artists doing the looping thing these days, but few are quite as accomplished at it as Jayne Dent is tonight. As Me Lost Me I Lost My, she’s a one-woman band, creating multi-layered tracks of vocals, guitars, concertinas and microphone induced beats. Tracks like the traditional ‘When You’re Born’ and the wintery soundscape of ‘Time To Thaw’ are quite mesmerising, raising the temperature and taking songs further than one musician should have any right to. Labelling is difficult and that’s always a good thing. It’s folk, but not as Dent’s father might call it, as she jokingly points out. New track ‘Eyes And Ohs’ from her forthcoming debut album is as experimental as it gets whilst another traditional folk track, ‘Chamber Bed’ builds to an almighty crescendo and climax. There’s a great degree of ambience and Jayne’s voice alone would be captivating enough. Layered as it is to create a choir effect, it’s nothing short of magical.

It’s a bold move for Let’s Eat Grandma to head out on tour prior to the release of their new album, ‘I’m All Ears’, and it’s a bolder move to open the set with five straight tracks from said album. Newly backed by a live drummer, lead single ‘Hot Pink’ is quite stunning, showcasing a new louder and more structured Let’s Eat Grandma. It’s all Charli XCX-style pop, abrasive and full of hooks and an instant chorus. In other words, it’s clearly very different to what we might have expected from the two girls from Norwich. ‘It’s Not Just Me’ is poppier again; the tall slim Rosa Walton and petite Jenny Hollingworth stood fast at their mutual keyboards, trading vocals, fixing the audience with subtle glances.

By the synth-heavy third track ‘Falling Into Me,’ it’s clear that we are seeing Let’s Eat Grandma Mk II, yet there are some traits remaining from the duo of old. And when I say old, I mean from the seventeen-year-olds who ripped up the rulebook of pop with their intriguingly brilliant debut record, ‘I Gemini’. There’s Rosa’s drunk-style bedroom dancing, skipping around the stage in her tracksuit bottoms, still retaining the energy of youth now that she must be all of nineteen. Jenny straps on her sax for the first time but then there’s the change. Perfectly in key, it fits the song; Jenny’s playing deft and tuneful. This isn’t the same duo who would throw instruments into a melting pot and see what spells they could conjure up. It doesn’t take the song in another direction entirely; it is part and parcel of the song. And somehow it feels like something is missing

Let's Eat Grandma

Let's Eat Grandma

Jenny straps on a guitar for the first time for the big chorus of ‘I Will Be Waiting.’ And it’s good. There’s no doubting that if this was a band just starting out, hearing these well-crafted pop songs for the first time would be an incredibly enjoyable experience. But it’s just not very original. Quite unlike, for instance, the Let’s Eat Grandma of two years ago. What made Let’s Eat Grandma so appealing in the first place isn’t quite there. Of course, nobody can fault a musician for improving, or developing their sound. And nineteen-year-old girls are going to sing about love and sex as opposed to their thirteen-year-old selves who wrote quirky fun lyrics about mushrooms and school textbooks. So maybe it’s the loss of innocence that feels like it’s missing here. Maybe.

Finally – six songs in – Rosa and Jenny return to their debut record with the lead track ‘Deep Six Textbook.’ They endearingly mess up the school playground style pat-a-cake handclaps that begin the song, Jenny breaking out of character to utter the only words that either of the two will say outside of song all night, laughingly admitting, “It’s been a while.” For a moment it’s like getting a glimpse behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. No longer aloof and mysterious, for the briefest of moments, she’s a teenage girl giggling. Then, they’re back at their keyboards, heads bowed, hair over their faces; the childlike falsetto drawl of their vocals taking over. It’s a brilliant song and reminds us of why we loved Let’s Eat Grandma in the first place. Another new track follows, possibly titled ‘Missed Call.’ ‘Deep Text Book’ seems to have reminded the girls of the fun they had with their first record, for it’s the most interesting new song of the set. The girls lie down on the floor for no apparent reason before getting up again. Jenny plays a bit of sax before taking a run around the sadly sparse crowd. Rosa dusts down the recorder from the I Gemini days. “Saw you in the yellow pages,” sings Rosa, a song seemingly about a boy because boys are more fun than school books as you approach your twenties. It’s fun and adventurous and there’s no telling quite where the song will go next.

Unfortunately, the only place that Let’s Eat Grandma go is stage left. Their fans haven’t deserted them just yet as they clap and stamp for an encore. An encore that, sadly, never comes. On stage for just short of 45 minutes, playing a grand total of seven songs, and time’s up. Whether it will prove to be time up for more than just their childhood is unclear, but you can’t help but wonder what awaits Let’s Eat Grandma now that they’ve grown up to become a little more like everybody else.

Words: Paul Broadhead

Photos: Victoria Ling

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