On arrival at the Ritz, I‘m quite puzzled by the apparent appeal of the ‘Vagina Rings’ on sale at the merch desk – replicas of Grimes’ very own lady parts [“one size fits all” but it’s a bit tight for me, natch!]. I feel a little bit uncomfortable just browsing, to be quite honest – which is probably the idea. Grimes has a background in art, and getting a reaction is what art seems to be all about nowadays.

First up are Magical Clouds. At first, I’m a little unimpressed with the vocals, which sound like an out-of-tune Jeff Buckley without the falsetto. However, by the end of the set I’m not so sure – the last couple of songs are good – and although the vocalist’s repeated mantra of “illusion” neatly sums up my view of a lot of the artists in this scene – all synth and no substance – the jury’s definitely out on Magical Clouds; further research is needed.

Next up is a wiry young chap who introduces himself by saying “my name is Becoming Real” – a very odd phrase indeed, and perhaps a slightly ironic choice of name, since virtually all of his music is synthesised. It’s a bit more like late 90s hard-house and hard trance with a sprinkling of chiptune. It’s much more beat-driven and energetic than Magical Clouds, and Becoming Real embodies this with all the camp flourishes of an Ibiza DJ.

My generation is probably the last that grew up without having internet-connected, music-capable computers readily available in our homes during our teenage-years. When I was playing my first gigs, the only band I had ever seen come close to this mould was the Prodigy, but I don’t think I saw a computer on stage until about 2004. The ubiquity of the 21st century one-man-band is probably the beginning of the end of the golden age of the traditional ‘band’ – the geek shall inherit the earth, and all that.

That said, Grimes stage show tonight combines the best of both worlds – borrowing musicians from Magical Clouds for “live” drums, populating the stage with a couple of high-energy dancers and adding in weird visuals, anime, and video of her eating a burrito. It all contributes to the unique Grimes-ness of the show and I like it. The more you can do live; the more energy you can convey on stage, the more you connect with people like me – who couldn’t do it all alone in their bedroom, even if we wanted to.

When the beat drops, it’s massive, heavy and danceable – but there’s enough between drops that you really feel each one when it comes in – and I do mean feel; if there’s one thing that the Ritz hasn’t needed to replace in its recent refurb, it’s the sound system, which can still kick out a real powerful sound.

‘Oblivion’ goes down very well – the song has been sped up for the live show, which is really effective. Music isn’t a one-speed-fits-all affair – the skill and judgement that goes in to tweaking every song in a set for live work must be a tough process – much appreciated by this writer.

 ‘Night Music’ shows off her vocal style very well and also has a typical Grimes beat. The fact that the beats can get a little samey never held back Drum ‘n’ Bass, so it certainly shouldn’t hold back Grimes. In any case, there are signs of significant development in the sound of new song, ‘Genesis’: more distinctive vocal melodies and some very bold, incisive samples where previously there might have been a more generic synth sound.

On my way home, accompanied by my girlfriend and her new replica vagina, I have mixed feelings about the good old days of the 20th century – the music has changed, but I don’t entirely agree with the old curmudgeon in me that says it’s definitely for the worst. Even the Ritz has improved significantly – but at least in the old days you used to be able to get a taxi from outside Locos without needing a postcode. I’m almost tempted to walk back and get a post-Ritz cab like I used to – by kicking the shutter at Radio Cars… Would the same lady poke her head out of the window and say “5 minutes, love” – or has that changed too?

See the video to ‘Genesis’ here

Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.