Live Review: Grimes, Hana

4 February 2016 | 3:35 pm | Stephanie Liew

"Grimes begins her version of Ave Maria a capella and the crowd is stunned into silence — until she chokes cartoonishly and we crack up."

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As we wait for support act Hana (from Montana, ha), an operatic voice booms out over the speakers. Hana appears, standing centre stage behind a desk that holds her synth pad and other instruments, flanked on either side by paper parasols backlit with ever-changing coloured lights. Debut single Clay hits much harder live — the recorded version's polished sheen is exchanged for some grit, and the reverberation of electronic drums in the bandroom adds some needed punch. Hana's crop top-leggings-wedge sneakers combo makes us feel like we should be hitting the gym (#fitspo). As soon as she has all her tracks in place, she steps out in front of the desk with her handheld mic, pulling sharp shapes when the music invites it. Whenever the set begins to feel a bit samey, Hana pulls out some big notes to keep our attention — the lady has pipes.

The sound person has swapped opera singing for classical music for our wait for Grimes. A handful of punters still manage to bop to it. 

Two dancers hit the stage first, followed by Hana — on bandmate and back-up vocals duty — and the woman of the hour. All performers are wearing red bow headbands a la Kiki's Delivery Service. Grimes stands on a podium at the back of the stage, on guitar for Flesh Without Blood. She hops down for Realiti, strutting about the front of the stage from side to side and between her dancers; the crowd loves it.

Grimes says she's a "nervous talker" — she's not lying, speaking so fast it takes a second for our brains to catch up. She introduces Scream as a song she wrote with her friend Aristophanes — she refers to all her co-writers (Janelle Monae, Blood Orange) as her friends, and it feels so genuine — but tells us she will be performing her own interpretation as she cannot rap in Taiwanese. The strobe lights flicker madly while the dancers' mouths gape in silent screams. The whole set is littered with these sick-looking scenes, and the lights are phenomenal — from shuddering green lasers and red flashes to purple UV lights making outfits and skin glow.

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Genesis draws a large cheer. The dancers — whose energy elevates the show to heights it would not otherwise reach — bring out the gymnastic ribbons, twirling them in time with the piano key plinks. For highlight Go (that drop, oof) the dancers hold dagger props in each hand.

"No matter how hard I try I always forget the words," Grimes says of Butterfly, brandishing a slip of paper with the lyrics on it. Following a false start (which the crowd applauds), she glances at the paper in the second verse, fucks up anyway and swears.

Grimes begins her version of Ave Maria a capella and the crowd is stunned into silence — until she chokes cartoonishly and we crack up. Her mistakes are awfully endearing: "Aaaah-ve ma — oh, so flat! — riaaaaa!" It is the first demonstration of her vocal prowess — there's often so much going on in her songs that her voice is not the focus. After the beat kicks in, Hana provides beautiful harmonies.

Phone Sex (Blood Diamonds) is pure fun and encapsulates what Grimes' whole live performance is about — the four women jumping around, smiles plastered across faces. To finish, Grimes plays her encore straight up; she's left her favourite (and ours, it seems) to last — Kill V Maim. Hana's on guitar, the dancers bring out killer chorey (complete with hand-held laser pointers), and Grimes bounces so gleefully it looks like she might burst. We know the feeling.