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Review: Grimes at O2 Academy

11 March 2016
Review: Grimes at O2 Academy
It seemed rather fitting that we saw Grimes play a show at the O2 Academy on Monday night, given that it was also the eve of International Women’s Day on the 8th. One of the most powerful things about Grimes as a woman and an artist is her energy; her fuck-you attitude. She sheds archetypal traits of femininity and trades it in for her own version: dorky, girlish, wise, and gamine; whatever takes her fancy that day, and always on her own terms.

Grimes - Article 1

Grimes, AKA Claire Boucher, is the Canadian, nymph-like musical maverick known for her electronica/arthouse/experimental pop, bolstered by synth, occasional guitar and of course, her sugared vocal chords. Don’t be fooled though. Her serene, ethereal quality is equally matched by a powerful, unbridled energy that seems to burst out of her tiny frame which is draped in an oversized tee with the ubiquitous bum bag cinching her waist - God only knows what treasures she keeps in there. Many of her fans adopt a similar style of dress; thrift shop cool meets party girl glitter (not even confined to just the females), and it is evident that people idolise her.

Straddling the best part of several genres her music is meant for dancing, and the whole room does, fizzing over as soon as her first track Genesis kicks in. Breathless, she enthusiastically reminds us what her next song will be in between tracks, helpful almost. Later on, she further wins over the crowd with her admission of ‘serious stage fright, you guys’ hiding behind her hair before exploding into her encore of Kill vs. Maim.

Grimes - Article 2

Playing mostly new tracks, like Flesh Without Blood, Realiti and SCREAM, featuring alternative Russian lyrics, alongside some older favourites, the set list was mainly faultless. Not settling for a solo performance she also favours an on stage girl troupe. The street/club dancers she comes armed with are dripping in attitude and seem to have limitless energy, setting the tone for the evening. Support artist and close friend Hana also accompanied on guitar and vocals, adding depth to an already richly layered sound. A nice addition to the set was track Go, originally written for Rihanna, but later rejected and reclaimed by Grimes, featuring compatriot and producer Blood Diamonds. The track skulks along its fairly chilled and almost non-descript verse before exploding into a shuddering dub step chorus; it’s clearly marked out against her other work but is of course, well received by a crowd who want a party.

Singer, musician, producer, artist, fashion muse and animal rights activist with untameable eyebrows and a new hairstyle every week, Grimes is a true original, and a chameleon promoting others to be the same (or rather, be different). She is also a true advocate of women; plastering her favourite work from the likes of Nicki Minaj and St Vincent to lesser known artists all over her tumblr page, which reads like the pages of a comic-obsessed teen’s diary, collaging in her bedroom. Her roots are of course rather DIY, launching her very first album through Montreal arts collective Lab Synthèse. Since then and four albums later she has gone from strength to strength; with critical acclaim throughout. Her latest project with Stella McCartney on sustainable, environmentally friendly perfume POP, marks her out as a muse, cementing her as a figure of change, but a fashionable one at that.

Grimes salutes the crowd’s willingness to dance and participate in the Monday night party; I’m left exhausted by the thought that she will do that again the following night and still absolutely kill it.

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.
Photography provided by Mark Wheelwright