ARTICLE WILLIAM DEFEBAUGH
PHOTOGRAPHY TINA LIU
THE PRESSURE IS ON FOR THESE LONDON DARLINGS AS THEY RETURN TO NEW YORK WITH A SOLD OUT SHOW AT IRVING PLAZA AND A CULT FOLLOWING THAT IS ONLY GROWING STRONGER—AND LOUDER—BY THE DAY
“I’M AFRAID OF YOU NOT LOVING ME HANNAH!” screams an avid fan amongst the packed crowd at Irving Plaza.
The voice in question is just one of thousands that has fallen in love with Hannah Reid, the bewitching young lead singer of Britain’s latest trip-hop export, London Grammar. Watching her perform—a towering blonde presence with ghostly pale skin and an undeniably ethereal and enigmatic air about her—it isn’t difficult to understand why.
Flanked by band-mates Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major, Reid steps out onto stage and dives right into one of the group’s most popular tracks, “Hey Now.” The trio is impeccably calm for having almost missed their own show. Their tour bus, containing all of their equipment, broke down the day before—causing them to almost miss their performance on Late Night with David Letterman (cutoff time was 2:30pm—they showed up at 2:28pm). Luckily, they were able to drive back and get their own equipment in time for Tuesday’s show.
Talking to them, one would think they were seasoned vets. “At this point, I we have learned to play under any circumstance—missing equipment, dental surgery, you name it. It’s all about performing under pressure. We definitely have a guardian Angel looking out for us, though,” says Reid.
That much is clear. The trio has taken their native U.K. by storm with a hauntingly unique sound that combines the moodiness and sparse instrumentals of the XX with crooning vocals similar to the likes of Florence Welch.
Their first full album, If You Wait, which just went platinum, reached number 2 on the U.K. album chart, thanks to a strong Internet following after the release of popular tracks such as “Wasting My Young Years” and “Metal & Dust.” The group’s success is also due in part to Reid lending her vocals on British DJ duo Disclosure’s “Help Me Lose My Mind,” last year—one of 2013’s most memorable tracks.
The trio saves their most powerful song for the last of the set: “Strong,” an arresting confession of insecurity and plea for understanding. Parts of the ballad can be taken as a reflection of the group’s current standing as yet another band that has blasted to fame in an alarmingly brief period of time, and the strange space they now find themselves at the center of: “Excuse me for a while, while I’m wide-eyed and I’m so damn caught in the middle.”
Apart from late night talk show appearances, sold out shows and chart-topping success, the band was recently received an endorsement from the British Prime Minister—a sign to many that they have definitely shed their indie roots.
Reid closes the show by rewarding a few stalwart members of the audience invitations backstage. One fan she chooses based on his disarming likeness to Harry Potter (she is currently reading the series on tour between shows). The other lucky recipient responds by screaming, jumping up and down, and promptly taking off his shirt for her. It’s unclear if this is the same lovelorn suitor who professed himself earlier, but most likely not.
With more touring, more TV spots, and more music to come, one thing is for certain: no one can accuse London Grammar of wasting a moment of their young years.
If You Wait is out now with Columbia Records.