Grandaddy haven’t been blessed with an awful lot of luck since they broke out, then broke up, then broke down through alcoholism and paranoia, and after successfully re-forming for the Last Place album, along with sold out shows throughout the world, tragically losing bassist Andy Garcia to a stroke in 2017. It’s hard to keep momentum with such massive obstacles being thrown at you.
Jason Lytle, unassuming leader of the masters of chug, has done something a little different this time around, by presenting their breakthrough album The Sophtware Slump backed by a small orchestra of French musicians, complete with cello, bassoon, violins, saxophone and vibes, and it was a treat from start to finish. The stage was bedecked with foliage and tasteful lighting, presenting an atmosphere of intimacy and warmth. Last year he released a piano only version of said album to celebrate its 20 years, and this tour tops things off nicely, by presenting it in another way, but still keeping true to the original concept. And it is a concept album of sorts, with themes of addiction and technology vs. nature wrapped around the story of a robot named Jed, a character who Jason occasionally returns to, and tonight he incorporates a concept within a concept by utilizing a 15 minute song cycle within the framework of the show to highlight the songs concerning it, including “Jed The Humanoid”, described as the saddest robot song ever written, which relates the story of a neglected robot drinking himself to death.
It’s not all doom and gloom though! He is unassuming, yes, and rather reluctant to engage, but is also wry and self deprecating, and allows any humour to happen naturally. You could tell the band were having so much fun, even letting off a little steam by occasionally twirling whirly tubes in the air, making that eerie wind sound for atmosphere, and more than making up for the lack of electronics, providing violin flourishes in “Crystal Lake”, and bowed vibes, double bass and cello, giving the music a droning atmospheric undercurrent. Pretty much every song on the album, and some from the accompanying EP’s, was fantastic, and these particular versions let the songs breathe. Every instrument allowing for flex and flow, shining a light on the fragile nature of Jason’s plaintive voice, and those melancholy tunes about loss and regret, and our disregard for the planet.
It’s a fairly big venue and it was pretty full, and the response to each piece was absolutely rapturous, and in the intimacy of the moment we all felt like friends, smiling and waving, all bathing in the beauty and the warmth of the moment. I do hope that they recorded this tour and that somewhere down the line will release a double vinyl copy of it, capturing that glorious moment for posterity, so we can relive it again and again. Wouldn’t that be something to treasure? In the meantime I have my memories.
Find out more on Grandaddy’s official website
Review by Andrew Wood