Grimes At The Olympia Theatre – Review
Returning to Ireland four years after her last appearance on these shores, Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, stepped out onto the stage at the Olympia a bona fide global superstar. The nervous newcomer who appeared at Electric Picnic in 2012, thrust into the spotlight after the explosive arrival of third studio album Visions, has handled her stardom with aplomb, growing assured in her ability, both as a songwriter and a performer.
Art Angels, crafted almost solely at the hands of Boucher, has built on the promise of Grimes’ earlier albums, deftly striking a balance between the experimental leanings of Visions and the unique pop sensibilities previously hinted at. The Grimes touring in support of Art Angels is an artist grown in stature and confidence in her own ability and you get the sense that the Canadian is more enthusiastic about this record than any of her preceding works.
HANA, Grimes’ supporting act and sole musical accompaniment throughout her own set, eases the crowd into the evening with an exuberant performance that highlights her strong vocal ability and a knack for weaving wistful lyrics around danceable choruses. Shortly after the close of HANA’s set, the strains of ‘laughing and not being normal’ filter into the air, announcing the imminent arrival of the headline act and sparking the crowd into life.
As Grimes bounds onto the stage, her infectious enthusiasm spreads to the audience instantaneously, the familiar ethereal synth of ‘Genesis’ setting the tone for an opening half hour of kinetic performance from Boucher, HANA and two accompanying dancers. The minimal backdrop displays a confidence from Boucher, certain in her own ability to drive her live performances, just as she crafts her own music with minimal outside interference.
‘Realiti’, a monstrous concoction of thumping bass and clubland synths, is a particular highlight early on, grown even fiercer in a live setting. This is a recurring theme throughout Grimes’ set, as songs like ‘Flesh without Blood’ and ‘Venus Fly’ take an on energy that far exceeds that of their already pulsating studio incarnations. Even those tracks that might be considered deeper cuts, like ‘Be A Body’, are performed with a dynamism that adds layers to Grimes’ set, building a ferocious energy that feeds into the already rapturous crowd.
As Grimes darts around the stage, hammering furiously at a drum machine one minute, at the front of the stage screaming her lungs out the next, the gig is shaping up to be something special. With the enthusiasm among the crowd building to fever pitch, Grimes and company launch into ‘Butterfly’, a scintillating slice of pure pop indulgence, and it’s at this pivotal moment in the set that disaster strikes and completely stunts the momentum of the evening. A technical fault results in a jolt of electricity knocking Grimes backwards mid-performance, thundering around the theatre like a gunshot and stunning the crowd into silence. Clearly shaken, and probably in pain, Grimes tries to brush the incident off and allows herself a rare moment of extended communication with the crowd as the stage crew attempts to resolve the issue.
The crowd take this unplanned intermission in good humour, enthused with the joy of Boucher’s performance thus far, even breaking into a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ after hearing that Grimes’ birthday happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. With the issue seemingly resolved, Grimes apologises profusely and launches into ‘Butterfly’, from the top, but all is not well and the technical fault rears its ugly head time and time again throughout the remainder of the set.
There are countless false starts, ‘Butterfly’ is abandoned, so too ‘Symphonia IX’ and ‘World Princess part II’, and even those songs that manage to go the distance seem somewhat lacking relative to the majesty of the opening half hour. The beefed-up live incarnations are no more, instead the opposite is true and songs like ‘Go’ and breakout single ‘Oblivion’ feel stripped back, despite the best efforts of both performer and audience. Boucher apologises repeatedly, thanking the fans at the Olympia for their patience, and the adulation from the crowd is clear to see, despite the truncated set.
‘Kill V. Maim’, which Grimes announces as her favourite track, is a fitting closing number, recapturing the manic energy of earlier in the evening for a brief moment, before Boucher and company trudge off stage, visibly upset with this disappointing conclusion to their Acid Reign tour. Their is no encore and, as the crowd streams out of the Olympia, there is a lingering sense of what could have been. Grimes is surely more disappointed than anyone at how the evening panned out, and she has since taken to social media to further apologise for the technical issues which derailed her set.
For the opening half hour or so, it was shaping up to be something truly special. The frenetic Grimes is a captivating performer, injecting adrenaline into the audience right from the off, and explosive performances of the likes of ‘Realiti’ and ‘Scream’ will live long in the memory. Unfortunately, these moments of unbridled joy will remain overshadowed by the bitter disappointment of what was to follow. Let’s just hope that Grimes returns sooner rather than later and we’re treated to the gig that could, and should, have been.