The Maroon

Review: Grimes captures NOLA’s Heart

Courtesy of Winter Circle Production

Courtesy of Winter Circle Production

Blaise Radley, Music review columnist

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When people speak about pop music nowadays, they refer to an aesthetic rather than to popularity, and although Grimes isn’t exactly mainstream, she has well and truly nailed the concept of modern pop.

On Nov. 9, I headed down to Republic New Orleans to see whether Grimes’ unorthodox approach could be translated into a live show.

Lacking is not a word that could be used to describe Grimes’ set. With her latest record “Art Angels” opening to unanimous praise, this was less a gig than a victory lap, fully attested by the paper sign hanging outside proclaiming the show was sold-out. Prefaced on stage by a pair of jumpsuit-clad dancers, Grimes crept to the back to take control of her synth-laden command hub, for set (and “Art Angels”) opener “laughing and not being normal.” Fortunately, it wasn’t long until she was firmly front and center, wailing into the microphone with a refreshing level of energy that directly contrasted with opening act Dollanganger’s somber persona. Any doubts I had about her more pop-punk direction were shattered during the opening salvo, where new and old songs were smashed together in a riotous medley of guitars, tinkling synthesizers and stomach-churning bass.

Pausing for a breather, she confessed, “I shouldn’t talk very much because I’m bad at it,” but regardless of her proficiency at speaking, it is clear she knows how to produce a nosebleed-inducing beat; as if to prove a point, her ensuing performance of Janelle Monae collaboration “Venus Fly” left each and every one of my 206 bones shuddering beneath my skin.

What’s so endearing about Grimes is her clear passion for her craft and, as she hovered over her synthesizers wildly whipping her purple ponytail back and forth, you could really sense the love she has for her own music (in the least arrogant way possible). My only personal low point was “Go,” a song she originally penned for Rihanna, but based on the moving and shaking going on around me, I was very much alone on that score: even the bored boyfriend of the girl in front of me, who’d clearly been dragged along by his far more enthusiastic other half, couldn’t help jiving a little.

Throughout the set, I found myself waiting for a few deeper album cuts before suddenly coming to the realization that there had been plenty of more obscure tracks from “Visions” and that “Art Angels” was far too recent a release to have a set of singles. Every song sounded like a fully formed, wonderfully saccharine pop classic, and each one was received as such with shrieks of adulation. In the face of such veneration, Grimes took a minute to explain how she wouldn’t be doing an encore that evening. She would rather stay on stage than disappear off in a manner that screamed “Praise me! Praise me!”

It’s a testament to the quality of her performance on Monday night, that even after telling everyone she wouldn’t be coming back, a good chunk of the crowd stood waiting. There was still a third of the audience baying in front of the stage when I left 10 minutes later, chanting politely “more Grimes please” in increasingly less hopeful tones. It’s sad then that their request wasn’t granted, but it just goes to show that Grimes is nothing if not a woman of her word.

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Review: Grimes captures NOLA’s Heart