The first thing that strikes me as I finally figure out exactly where the entrance to Yes’ Pink Room is, I have been there before but not for a few years, is that I have no idea what a Let’s Eat Grandma fan looks like. In my head they skew quite young, like a young cool record player owning crowd, with some pop fans thrown in for good measure. Instead, I’m greeted by a crowd that feels a fair bit older than me, something I didn’t expect. Maybe I’m stuck in the corner with the other solo gig attendees who are there because they got to every show in Manchester, but in a room this small the crowd is not what I anticipated.
A few minutes later and a hastily drank pint down me, I navigate over to a place slightly further back so I don’t end up squished in the corner of the bar. Now the room is pretty full for this sold out show and it becomes pretty clear that I’m stood in the section away from the hardcore fans. Murmurs from the front mean the band are about to walk out and as Rosa and Jenny walk out to applause there’s still people around me who don’t seem to have noticed.
We go straight in with Happy New Year, their first new music of 2022 and arguably the best song the band have produced yet. It’s euphoric, while still being weird enough to suit the duo. The synth lines go hard on this opener and it’s almost like it would have been better to wake up the crowd a bit more for such a danceable bassline moment. Rosa Walton bounces around as she sings one of the band’s hookiest hooks. The moment we hear fireworks going off before the song crashes back in feels stilted by the tiny room we are in, evidence that the music Let’s Eat Grandma are producing far outstretches the places they are playing on this current tour.
Like that we are straight into ‘Falling Into Me’. I instantly think it’s bold to open with your two best records, but I’m surprised by the number of people who aren’t engaging with the band at all. Are they at the wrong gig, have they ever listened to Let’s Eat Grandma; it’s very strange. It’s here where I get a little confused by the awkward stage presence of the band. Here’s one of the best Alt Pop records of the last decade, but it feels awkward on stage. It’s almost like Jenny and Rosa aren’t sure how to perform the slightly more straightforward pop songs Their awkwardness is clearly part of the appeal, it’s slightly chaotic on record as well as on stage. I enjoyed Jenny playing saxophone in the peak of the song, but breaking into the Macarena in a song this euphoric? I’m not sold.
Following this we get into a series of more comfortable performances of very not comfortable ‘Hot Pink’, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ and ‘Watching You Go’. Maybe it’s just take a little while for the band to get going, but it’s on these songs I feel like they make the most sense as a live act. One of the duo taking lead vocals and the other manning one of the plethora of instruments the pair flit between. ‘Watching You Go’ especially is arguably the highlight of the night, the crowd properly singing along with Jenny’s best lead vocal moment on the hook. A welcome surprise really.
Then the gig sort of stops in place for 15 minutes just when it feels like things are picking up. Recently released bonus track ‘Give Me a Reason’ goes down well, but the crowd don’t know it very well. Forgive me for being out of touch, but I also didn’t realise that Rosa Walton had done ‘I Really Want To Stay At Your House’ for the videogame Cyberpunk 2077 so maybe I was the one who hadn’t done the research. But it takes until the band suddenly say ‘this is our last song’ for the gig to kick back into action.
Just over 40 minutes into the set and the band are getting ready to go off for the encore? At least we are back in euphoria again with ‘Levitation’. Another of their best songs that weirdly feels bigger than their live show and the venue itself. I bop along willingly though to one of the songs that see the duo trade off each other more than most of their records.
The band are off and back on quicker than I can put my long empty pint cup down, and surely there’s just one thing they’ll do as an encore? I’m glad to be right as they kick off the epic final track of album I’m All Ears, ‘Donnie Darko’. 12 minutes of steadily building synths and a dozen different hooks it’s glorious and yet the duo manage to feel a little lost beneath the chaos of it all. Schoolyard handclaps, crawling around on the floor between their instruments.
That’s the show done. 11 songs and less than an hour, it’s hard to not feel shortchanged a little by a band three albums deep and with a recent album as good as Two Ribbons. I’m left wondering if Let’s Eat Grandma are just a band that works better on record than they do on stage. If it’s going to be weird, then I need it absolutely bonkers, if it’s going to be awkward then go all out; instead it just seems like their huge ambitions are perfect for the studio.
Words by Sam Atkins