John Grant teamed up with acclaimed producer Richard Hawley to perform a unique night of cover songs from the former country music inspiration, Patsy Cline. Grant, wearing a custom-made sparkly suit, arrived on stage to ‘Crazy Arms’, a song he had first heard as a schoolboy on a jukebox in Denver, with ticking drums and piano medley. The band then played the slow rhythm and blues bassline of ‘Never No more’, with Hawley’s wheel spinning blues guitar.

Grant spoke about how movies had helped develop his interest in Cline, specifically Jessica Lange’s portrayal of the country music star in 1985 film, ‘Sweet Dreams’. He also spoke about the importance of his sister, who had been a huge influence on his exposure to the singer. He dedicated ‘Just Out of Reach’ to her, featuring singing waves of lap steel guitar. Reminiscing about the time he became severely ill abroad and singing Cline songs in hospital while he recovered, Grant sang ‘I Fall to Pieces’, a 1961 single that was a crossover between country and pop and launched Cline’s career as a solo female artist in the pop charts.

Grant then sang ‘Strange’, with Hawley playing on acoustic guitar against light footed piano keys. They performed the slow ballad of ‘Sweet Dreams (of You)’, Hawley churning out deep tones on the baritone guitar. At the behest of an audience member, Grant dedicated two songs to his friend, the late Sinead O’Connor, including Cline’s Hank Williams penned 1952 single ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ before also performing Willie Nelson’s 1961 single ‘Crazy’; both songs are country standards popularised by Cline. The band returned for an encore of Grant’s own song from his time in his band, The Czars, with ‘Paint the Moon’, which had channelled Cline’s ‘Strange’ of which they had also released a cover and was Grant’s first UK recording.

24/09/23: John Grant + Richard Hawley @ Barbican, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.