“It’s been over twenty years since I was last here”, Grant-Lee Phillips told his audience. Back then, he was touring with Grant Lee Buffalo, known for their fusion of Neil Young style folk/country with modern American alternative rock. From 2000 onwards, he has been fashioning a solo career, and he has a fair bit to show for with seven albums on his belt.
Phillips’ whole stage style was like a country-singer in a bar; warm, friendly and chatty. This is a style of performing that goes down well with any audience from Nashville to Nottingham. From the get go he was engaging. Although he came on stage only with his acoustic guitar and started with some of his newer solo material, including a new song called ‘See America’, he didn’t rigidly stick to a set list. People shouted out requests, which he played or he decided to play whatever he felt like. His rapport with the audience was excellent. He made jokes about Nottingham’s pronunciations and shared a bottle of Harvest Pale with one lucky audience member (I for one love Harvest Pale, by Castle Rock Brewery, based in Nottingham, so I would have practically ripped his arm off for a bottle. Luckily, both of Grant’s arms were intact). The audience were so friendly and at ease that even when Phillip’s guitar string broke, he was able to hold the audience through humorous conservation. The show was part music gig, part stand-up routine.
The simplicity of Phillips’ set showcased his high, falsetto vocal range and when he added distortion from his effects pedal to his guitar or his microphone, it still fitted in nicely with the intimacy and raw sound of the music. After his replaced the guitar string, he got straight into some Grant Lee Buffalo classics, including ‘Bethlehem Steel’ and a tender version of ‘Jupiter and Teardrop’. In the final section of the gig, he went into ‘Fuzzy’, the band’s biggest hit, ‘Shining Hour’ and ‘Mockingbirds’, finishing with a well-received encore performance of ‘Rock of Ages’.
Grant-Lee Phillips performance was a demonstration of how you don’t need a massive amount of equipment or special effects to win over on audience. All you need is a guitar, fantastic songs, good jokes and a bottle of beer.