**WARNING** This review will be two things: 1) quite gushing, and 2) a bit sweary. Please do read on if you are comfortable with both those things. This is because tonight the magnificent John Grant is in town, and this gig is very, very special indeed.  In fact, I’d go so far to say as it’s the best thing I’ve seen this year, it really is that good. The ex-Czars man now has two incredible albums behind him, and although he’s here tonight to showcase his new one, Pale Green Ghosts, there’s plenty on offer from both of them, much to the excitement of the assembled crowd.

Strolling on to the bubbling electronics of ‘You Don’t Have To’, Grant’s beautiful, warm voice fills The Ritz immediately, and the crowd are instantly in the palm of his hand. His lyrics are at once poignant and wryly funny, exemplified in the opener when Grant sings “Remember how we used to fuck all night long? Neither do I because I always passed out”, drawing sympathetic “awwwws” in his direction from just about everyone. If his songs aren’t being self-deprecatingly humorous, they are one of two other things – full of anger towards an ex-love (‘Vietnam’ describes an ex as “like an nuclear bomb, like the Agent Orange they used to use in Vietnam”…ouch), or devastatingly heartbreaking. The latter is dealt in an emotional hand grenade one-two of ‘TC And The Honeybear’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’, back to back, and it’s unbearably sad, but incredibly beautiful. To see a man pour his heart out on stage like that (admittedly through the haze of more than a few tears) is something I’ll never forget.

 Straight afterward, Grant launches into three electro-stompers, turning The Ritz into a pounding nightclub with an amazing ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ followed by a beefed up ‘Black Belt’ and ‘Ernst Borgnine’, the triple whammy shaking me to the core with their rumbling bass and dazzling my eyes with strobes and swirling lights. They’re both a huge step change from what has gone before, but somehow it feels natural to have followed the tears with a bit of boogie-ing. Then there’s the sweary section, with ‘GMF’ (which stands for ‘Greatest Mother Fucker’, introduced by Grant telling us that “sometimes you just have to tell yourself you’re the greatest mother fucker of them all”) followed by ‘I Hate This Town’, with it’s anthemic chorus of “I hate this fucking town, you can not even leave your fucking house, without bumping into someone who no longer cares about you'”- we’re not to worry though, it was written about Denver, not Manchester, he tells us.

Grant’s warmth and wit radiates from the stage in-between songs, speaking honestly about his HIV and his love of his adopted home, Iceland, as well as telling a foul mouthed tale about Ernst Borgnine and telling us all to clap like ABBA even though we’re all “jaded c***s”. The warmth rebounds straight back to him from the rapt crowd; when he sings “I get to sing for lovely people all over this lovely world” during ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’ the crowd whoop with delight, and the line “I guess I’m one of those guys who gets better looking as they age” from the same song elicits many a wolf whistle. We lap it up, sharing in his heartbreak and sadness, whilst celebrating just how amazing this guy is.

The encore is introduced by another pummelling slab of electro-pop in ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’, with Grant doing what can only be described as endearing-dad-dancing, before settling down into some of the best cuts from his first solo album ‘Queen of Denmark’, including a simply stunning, crowd silencing ‘Where Dreams Go To Die’. It marks the end of a remarkable night, as Grant and his band take a final bow, Grant beaming from ear to ear at the rapturous applause that must be ringing in his ears. This was very special indeed; if anything tops this gig this year, it will have to be something out of the very top draw.

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