Words by Dan Scoggins
Photos by Mark Stimpson
The good people of Norwich, frozen, thawed and then frozen again by the pandemic are out tonight in force at Norwich Arts Centre in the vain promise of feasting again on Grandma. They are loved like our own because they are our own. I wondered, how many people were here to support their relatives tonight? Then I realised we were all related by this city, this band and this way of thinking.
Rosa and Jenny, playing for the first time in two years, were the main attraction. The venue, the beautiful and pleasing Arts Centre housing the duo who had played their sophomore performances in this room. There was a sense of anticipation and a fight (in the gentle sense of the meaning) for the best view in the house. This will be special.
One of the things that made Let’s Eat Grandma so fascinating as a duo from day one is their choices. The choice tonight to get Norwich based artist Vanity Fairy to open for them was sublime. They consist of singer Daisy Capri and their backing of weighty eighties disco superbness. They wander on to the stage looking like my Nan in 1979 (that’s a good thing my Nan was a subversive, Guinness drinking Irish woman who died her hair purple and ended up in a mental hospital receiving ECT ‘cos she was too much for the patriarchy of the 50’s).
They did the best with the limited stage space by ducking, diving, disappearing and physically interpreting their music for us in the gentlest, loveliest way. “Am I warming you up? That’s what I’m here to do”, they proclaim. It worked. Infectious Atari pop drum rolls and sick Abba choruses. The crowd was moving and appreciative.
“Happy New Year”, Let’s Eat Grandma’s newest single opens the show and the guys looking splendid with that weird, relaxed, born to be there empathic disposition that immediately makes the crowd feel like they are in the right place. The music is great. The two build up the known interchange and friendship exploitation on their own with synths, until suddenly drums and bass crash in and the band are introduced just at the moment that the euphoria sets in, again. The as yet unnamed new Keyboardist and guitarist adding in new dynamics and freedom.
Jenny is all sparkly fringe and Vangelis’ sax breaks. Rosa in a blue satin jumpsuit hops between instruments. They hit us with their precious triumphs ‘Falling Into Me’ and then ‘Hot Pink’ where the sweet synths pour over the crowd in waves.
New music is introduced slowly. There is a new album on the way, and we haven’t heard much yet. ‘Hall of Mirrors’ sounds assured and classic. New song ‘Watching You Go’ boings while Jenny comes to the front of the stage and delivers a heart-rending plaintiff. It’s so hard not to say something like ‘maturity’ when describing a band who started so young. But the AOR of this song sounds confident, mature and a step away from the experimentalism of the early band. It’s a choice. The song works very well and sounds ready for a stadium. I’m not going to mention U2.
Then they pull away from that and give us something great. “Deep Six Textbook”, the weird pearl in the Davy Jones locker of their first album but done by them now. Not changing so much as evolved. Tescos value keyboards shoelace in their current thoughts with their early works. Staged head ducks from a previous incarnation taking on new meaning and adding poignancy. When the wonderfully reliable and also unnamed drummer comes out to play some keys and into sightlines, she is happily a LEG clone, another wanderer who believes.
Rosa and Jenny fill the stage with their combatant sibling best friend love energy. They revisit hand clapping but sometimes lie on the stage or fall over in beautifully gimmicked slo-mo. There is always an unwavering idea we are witnessing the ins and outs of a glowing friendship. Little whispers to each other and Glock and Sax slowcore.
A slow moment between songs means a bit of audience talk. “Fair enough, it’s been a long time!” someone shouts. “Beki ” shout the girls after positively identifying a member of the audience. Is that a thing?
Then “Two Ribbons‘ was exalted from its recorded form. This Mortal Coil and Cure like guitar riffs are just appealing. They know what they are doing and where they are going.
“This is our last song” – “no it’s not”- The audience.
They end on another new one ‘Levitation’. Bringing a pulsing goth chorus to happy beats. It’s poppy. It’s joyous.
They come back on with “Donnie Darko” and send us home with a reluctant proggy retelling of their most ambitious song. It builds and it soars. They occupy every moment of it as a new version of the story they were always telling. Jenny’s recorder sounds perfectly like she made it up on the spot, Rosa’s guitar crashes in and there is that euphoria again. The close of the song and the audience gently sings along as the dust settles.
I am feasted. I am full up on Grandma, but I want more. The house lights are on. Guess I will wait for the new album “Two Ribbons” out on 8th April 2022.