THE BEGINNING

Clare Boucher brings her 2015 LP ‘Art Angels’ to life with athletic dancers, laser gloves and a thumping live show. The crowd’s devotion was clear to see.

Grimes-daniel-quesada-for-web-1

Grimes @ London’s Brixton Academy – 11 March 2016

In my cosy little corner of the internet, everyone loves Clare Boucher. Everyone. I mean, obviously there’s a possibility that some people don’t – and daren’t admit it – but really she’s made it hard for anyone not to love her.

We’re talking about the madcap genius who once sailed live chickens, 20 pounds of potatoes and a sewing machine down the Mississippi on a homemade houseboat. The sort of champ who had the front to rock up to Richie Hawtin’s Ibiza pool-party and drop ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ live on Boiler Room TV. The electronic-pop visionary who delivered one of the best albums of 2015, just as people were starting to doubt whether she had it in her to match 2012’s ‘Visions’, let alone better it. I say Boucher has more guts, talent, imagination and ambition than any of us, and I’m citing ‘Art Angels’ as evidence.

Grimes-daniel-quesada-for-web-2

Swapping the online echo chamber for a real-life one, and tonight’s capacity-crowd loves Boucher. When the audience goes berserk following ‘Flesh Without Blood’, she stands beaming, bashfully covering her face. “You must stop, it’s really stressful,” she chastises as the cheers continue to swell, quickly adding, “I appreciate you guys being vocal [and] clapping – I’m just shy.”

If the crowd is unusually excitable, it’s for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’ve had to wait nearly four years to see Grimes live in London. Secondly, they’ve lived with ‘Kill V. Maim’, ‘Venus Fly’ and the rest since November, and are understandably hyped to hear them live. Finally, they’re only reciprocating the energy and enthusiasm that Boucher and her team project onstage.

Assisted by opening-act Hana, two black-clad dancers and a brilliant lighting technician, Boucher powers through a near-flawless set of glittering alt-pop that’s driven by blistering electronics and infused with all the heaviness of hard-rock. Boucher is never stationary for a second, bounding between her raised platform of synths, sequencers and samplers and the very front corners of the stage, variously kicking, pogoing and lunging. During the searing rendition of ‘Scream’, she falls to her knees, head-banging violently as she spits out a Russian translation of the words that Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes originally performed.

grimes-daniel-quesada-for-web-3

BloodPop-collaboration ‘Go’ is particularly strong tonight, and it’s also the first of at least three songs that Boucher introduces as “my favourite”. The twinkling, jewellery box-melody of the verses showcases her pitch-perfect vocals – which possess an almost choral sweetness – and accentuates the aggression of the bass-heavy, blitzkrieg chorus, during which her dancers twirl daggers.

‘Visions’ cuts ‘Be A Body’ and ‘Oblivion’ both receive rapturous receptions, but it’s the non-encore encore (she never leaves the stage) of ‘Kill V. Maim’ – complete with laser gloves – that blows the roof off Brixton Academy. Hearing thousands of voices bellowing the barbed refrain, “I’m only a man, do what I can,” back at Boucher feels like a fitting conclusion to a night showcasing female strength. Sure, she fluffs a few lyrics, but tonight’s performance is a triumph, and every single one of us leaves wanting to join Grimes’ gang of freaks and geeks.

grimes-daniel-quesada-for-web-4

dot