Grimes on Tour Review by Alex Murray
If Grimes didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent her. Sometimes I worry that we did, all dreaming the same dream at the same time accidentally one night, the manifestation of wishful thinking the world over. That’s why we’re all here tonight, making sure she’s really real.
Acid green lights pierce the dry ice. An expectant crowd waits to make contact. At Manchester’s Academy 2, we’re about to have a close encounter with a third kind of pop star. Neither male nor female, niche nor mainstream, Grimes is beaming down from a galaxy far beyond our puny taxonomies.
Sylphlike, superintelligent, and eons ahead, Grimes glided onto the music scene just like one of those extra terrestrials at the very end of Spielberg’s AI. You can see it in her promo shots for current Acid Reign tour – she’s an alien, she’s a legal alien, and she’s spent the light years it took to get here guzzling a liquid diet of stardust and K-Pop radio waves emanating from our little blue dot.
Pop’s superpower is suggestion, opening up a sinkhole between what is and what might be and encouraging us to stage dive into it. It doesn’t matter if gods or aliens or wizards exist, it’s enough that they might. Grimes embodies ‘Chaos Magic’, the trend forecasted by K-Hole (originators of Normcore), a translation of Object Oriented Ontology, which wants to ‘re-enchant’ the world. This is pop’s manifesto too –revealing the magical in the mundane, pulling rabbits out of hats out of rabbits out of hats. With her ability to seamlessly synthesise disparate elements of global pop culture, it’s no stretch to picture Grimes as a wizard stomping her wooden staff on the place where all the kingdoms meet.
Tonight, this staff pummels out a punishing beat as Grimes bounces up and over it in a kind of kimono jumpsuit. She screams a lot, the same scream that makes the best bit of her best song (manga encore Kill V. Maim), and yet between songs she’s so softly spoken and breathy it’s hard to hear a word. This is Grimes as evil genius – both puppet and puppet master in a spectacle she’s stage-managed to the nth degree.
“This is my jogging song,” I hear one bloke whisper to his mate during Go, proof if proof was needed that Grimes exists on two planes, our attention switching effortlessly from lyrics about existential doubt to pop-banger musical bliss. As life-affirming Realiti conjures its utopia, this sold-out hall expands and brightens until it feels like midday at a summer festival. By the first chamber-pop strains of Flesh Without Blood, people are sat on shoulders pumping the air with glee.
In pop, a virtue is made out of ambition – Michael Jackson was King, Kanye Kardashian-West is God, and Taylor Swift the superhero gangleader of a Squad of supermodels. Together, they’ve stolen our attention and hijacked our ideals – no, KimYe, empowerment goes beyond being naked; sorry Tay, feminism ≠ white entitlement. But this powerplay between the super-rich has its benefits; emerging artists can toil away in the shadows, free of the demands to be popular and perfect. Tonight, Grimes even apologises for singing Aristophanes’ lyrics for Scream in Russian instead of Mandarin. Beat that Beyoncé!
Like acid rain, Grimes gets everywhere and changes our landscape forever. Combining the best tracks from 2012’s Visions (Oblivion & Be A Body) with last year’s peerless Art Angels, the setlist tonight showcases the most cerebral, eccentric, and uplifting musician this generation has to offer. A dress-up & cross-over artist, Grimes is like Bowie’s cheeky little sister, the Wendy to his Peter Pan. The world is in need of some serious re-enchantment since he left us, and Grimes is exactly the alien we need to do it.
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Grimes on Tour Review by Alex Murray