An hour or so previous to Claire Boucher’s set, played under a glowing fast-food style “Hot Dogs” sign (The Arches’ own stand, it turns out), I was looking forward to seeing how Grimes was in the live arena. Visions, her third album and the first for 4AD, has had the vast majority of the music press salivating over its contents, and when I listened to the record for the first time I was expecting something special. What’s actually on Visions is fine; it’s a reasonable electro-pop record with some decent manipulated beats and the odd “wow” moment but nothing that really explains the critical fawning. I think it’s people spending too much time trying to define how Grimes looks, sending them into a tailspin and forgetting about the musical content. But I was hoping to find other layers and a better understanding of Visions by seeing it performed live, maybe get pulled into Grimes’ world…but for the most part this was, well, boring.
Under her Hot Dogs sign, Grimes acts as a demented vendor. One moment she is hunched over her deck of equipment, twisting knobs and bending her otherworldly falsetto into various shapes and sizes, the next she’s arms wide open, dancing away, pigtails swinging, moving without inhibition. To her left the Matrix-meets-Right Said Fred percussionist crashes out extra beats, and on the right is a backing dancer, throwing the most appalling moves seen since I last took to the dancefloor! Musically, it is all pretty grey; periods of time go by where it seems nothing is really happing and it doesn’t feel like Grimes is doing very much with the beats or the vocals. Predictably, and rightfully as they are cracking tunes, the place went crazy for ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Genesis’, ‘Nightmusic’ is fun as is her version of ‘Phone Sex’ (minus Blood Diamonds) but aside from that it is a hell of a lot of style over substance and for an artist with three albums under her belt, it’s bordering on criminal that Boucher played for under an hour, including the encore.
It doesn’t feel like the future of music just more overhyped nonsense. Although, I’m willing to be proved wrong: I remember seeing The Strokes play King Tuts in the summer of 2001 before the release of Is This It and thinking it was a lot of fuss over nothing, and we all know what happened next, don’t we? So, for a 24-year-old woman Grimes is really still in her formative years as an artist and I’m sure she’ll go on to make many more fine records – I just hope that she makes her live appearances a whole lot more exciting in the future.