An understated band opens with a glacial introduction, as London Grammar’s recent O2 Academy set signalled its start with simple a dimming of lights and naked, unaccompanied vocal.
Frontwoman Hannah Reid’s voice teased in the lyrics of Rooting For You, the opening track from current (and number one-reaching) album, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, kicking off an ice-crisp set on their return to Leeds.
And understated they are - only releasing their second album this year following globally-successful debut If You Wait in 2013, it was touch-and-go to know if they’d ever return to performing following Hannah’s well-documented struggle with stage fright, coupled with the toll of delivering heart-rending lyrics night after night.
Not that the demands of touring showed this evening. “I swear that song gives me stitch sometimes,” she laughed, welcoming the crowd into her world before heading straight into Flickers, a blistering crescendo of trip hop beats and choral flourish.
New album tracks Who Am I, Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, and Hell To The Liars sensed the band beam with pride at demand for their lighter, newer work, whilst first-album mainstays Stay Awake With Me, Sights, and Wasting My Young Years let the crowd own choruses and applauded appreciatively after every. Single. Track.
The gutteral intro and trademark organ sound of Hey Now set the venue alight with screams, breaking up some of the blandness from later material very much formulaic in nature, before Big Picture.
Being beckoned back on stage to one of the most rapturous applauses I’ve ever seen, perhaps London Grammar have come to terms with the demand for their cooly-ambient, heart-on-sleeve work. It’s difficult to listen to their lyrics and not feel - an encore of Bones of Ribbon was backlit by a larger-than-life soundwave of the performance, before Oh Woman Oh Man brought a lo-fi tribal feel to proceedings.
Closing on a beats-heavy edit of Metal and Dust reinvigorated what was in parts a lacklustre set, carried forward mostly by the awe of Hannah’s otherwordly live vocal.
A third album may well be on the cards, but can London Grammar maintain variety beyond vocal gymnastics?