John Grant is happy to be in Copenhagen. The American singer goes so far as to say, “It’s really, really nice to be here,” in hesitating Danish. Early in the evening, Grant tells the audience that the title of his first solo album, Queen of Denmark, is, in fact, inspired by his love of the country, and that he was happy spending a day off wandering around the city and listening to people speaking the language that he also has a soft spot for.
He saves the eponymous song for later in the set, and of course everyone sings the final line, “You might be the next queen of Denmark.” It’s a striking moment in an evening that is otherwise marked by an almost reverential quiet. Grant is an imposing figure whose very presence commands deference even as his fingers delicately wrap around his mic stand. He does not dance so much as he swaggers, sometimes in place, but mostly just over to his synth setup.
While much of Grant’s 2013 album, Pale Green Ghosts, is based on synth programming, it’s the variations from these reproduced sounds that are most striking. Grant stretches his normally steady voice during “Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore,” to compensate for Sinead O’Connor’s missing primal screams. “Queen of Denmark” is punctuated by crunchy choruses. And rather than replicating the delicate outro on the recording of “Glacier,” the song explodes into a shock of noise that seems to overwhelm even Grant, who takes a seat on the stool in front one of the keyboards and closes his eyes, nodding along.
It’s anticipated that a man who incorporates so much humor into his music would match it in his between song banter, but there isn’t much to speak of. Still, there’s a sense of spontaneity by the end of the evening, when calls from the balcony for “Angel Eyes” are obliged, when the song, “Paint the Moon” by Grant’s former band the Czars is introduced, when most of the band leaves the stage for “Caramel” only to come back for a fifth and final song in the encore, “Chicken Bones.” It’s possible to be personable without a lot of chatter. In Grant’s case, it’s enough to show you’re happy to be here.