The last time I saw Jason Lytle was at Brixton Academy in 2003 on the biggest ever Grandaddy tour. Behind his defunct keyboard equipment shone a huge screen that dazzlingly projected films to accompany every song. Snow Patrol were the little known support act. How times have changed. Snow Patrol are huge for some strange reason and Grandaddy are no more. But as I watched this reluctant indie hero shuffle on to the stage in the far more intimate surroundings of the Islington Academy it was clear that this change of circumstances were fine by him.
He doesn't take center stage anymore staying off to the right behind his intricately wired equipment. Cleanly shaven (and unnervingly resembling Keifer Sutherland) he emerged after a curiously dramatic operatic recorded intro in which a female voice asks "who's playing tonight, Oh he's the guy from that band Grandaddy," and he found himself in the presence of his religiously adoring fans who have waited a long time for this. As soon as his first breathy word was uttered it was like seeing an old fiend for the first time in ages. With a new band behind him he treated us to multiple picks from his new solo record and some choice Grandaddy cuts, although none from the last record.
For any long term fan of his former band it was a joyous thing indeed to hear the opening bars to Chartsengrafs as the first song rang out. A magnificently extended rendition of Jed's Other Poem awaited us a few songs later but the real treat was two of my favorite songs from this impeccable back catalogue, Levitz and the Crystal Lake B side Our Dying Brains, which always sounds better live than in original form. Obviously he played the new material with evident pride and glancing round the crowd during songs like Yours Truly and Brand New Sun it was clear how well received these new songs are as everybody mouthed the words as if singing along to the classics. Whether fronting Grandaddy or standing alone on the stage Jason Lytle is consistently a class live act. He has an uncanny power to render you gooey eyed with dreamy nostalgia and no matter what torrent of noise he raises up around his vocals his words are always crystal clear, shining out with dazzling clarity through perfect sound production.
With a curiously short rendition of the second half of He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot as the encore the band left the stage all too early. I suppose they had to go sometime and we could all have stayed there until dawn broke but this exit seemed unplanned and sudden. Whatever the reason it sure was good to have the boy back in our town. As he paused halfway through the all time crowd favorite A.M.180 and stated, "here I am back in London playing this annoying melody," the London crowd rapturously thanked their hero for the memories.