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Grant Hart – Mono, Glasgow

You can’t help but feel Grant Hart’s life story will make a cracking film one day. After all, this is a man who inherited his drums from his brother when he was killed by a drunk driver. Openly gay in a blue collar US neighbourhood, he was drawn to the fledgling (and now legendary) Minneapolis punk scene. And he was the drummer and co-songwriter in Húsker Dú, the genuinely seminal hardcore band who helped define what the opposition to the mainstream was in the 1980s. His heroin addiction hastened their demise and almost killed him. He eventually recovered, making a clutch of great records, both as frontman of Nova Mob and solo. He’s like the Frank Miller version of Dave Grohl.

This solo show is held the achingly stylish environs of Mono, whose overtly basic décor unsuccessfully attempts to mask a maniacal attention to detail. Everything in this place is thought out in a desire to look casual. That said, the tautologically spartan-yet-expensive venue is perfect for what we are about to see. Hart has attracted a packed house, most of who look like they first experienced him on vinyl. People have waited a long time for him to return to Glasgow and there’s a palpable expectancy.

With no fanfare he’s on stage, smaller than you remember and still possessed of a classic garage band voice. It’s just guitar and fuzz pedal, and as he slashes away through ‘You Are the Reflection of the Moon on the Water’ it’s apparent that what he’s lacking in support from a band he’s intent on making up for in energy.

After a few more songs, he says ‘so what do you want to hear?’ ‘Two voices cry out, almost tentatively, for Húsker classics ‘She Floated Away’ and ‘Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely’, probably the band’s definitive anthem. And, one after the other, that’s what they get. It’s as simple as that.

The rest of the set follows suit. He asks someone what they want to hear, they tell him and off we go. Occasionally he segues into a choice of his own, such as the lovely ‘My Regrets’ from last album Hot Wax. Other times it’s exactly what the crowd requests, when it requests it. ‘Sorry Somehow’, ‘2541’, ‘Now That You Know Me’…classic songs performed with verve and a little bit of fury.

Because, even after all these years, that’s what fires these songs. The riffs are still dark and scary in all the right ways. The lyrics still claw at your heart like amphetamine. The songs are always vaguely threatening imminent collapse, little three minute precursors of apocalypse. This is music which would fuck Snow Patrol’s girlfriend and steal its rider. And isn’t that the way it should be?

He’s come back from the brink, though nobody gets off scot-free and addiction has left its mark. His teeth are gone and his face drawn, but the eyes are sharp and he’s clear and focused. Although he shambles about – at one point halting to get his auto-tuner, based on the very reasonable premise that he’s shit at doing it manually – he’s also charming and likeable. And – let’s not be coy about this – he was in Húsker Dú for God’s sake.

He finishes after 90 minutes, a terrific set from one of the best and most underrated songwriters of the last thirty years. It may be too late for him to hit those Grohlesque levels of success, but shows like this will only burnish what is as strong a canon in alternative music as any. Grant Hart, living legend. Be thankful for that.

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4 Responses

  1. Excellent review….the man is a legend!!!!

  2. Great review of a great show.

  3. He’s a genuine, actual proper legend.

  4. I can assure you that he may have a tooth missing at the bottom, but to suggest that all his teeth have fallen out? come off it. he’s lost soem weight but he was quite podgy in the days of husker du
    Brilliant gig by the way

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