LIVE REVIEW: grandson, No Love for the Middle Child in Portland, ME (07.09.23)
Hot off the release of his newest album, I Love You, I’m Trying, for which the tour is named after, grandson delighted Portland, ME for the first time in his career. Gloomy and foreboding darkness and red haze covered the stage, as the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” started over the speakers and set the mood as the crowd sang every word, awaiting Jordan Benjamin’s entrance.
Appearing on a park bench under tall street lamps and a custom “I Love You, I’m Trying” street sign, he launched into short and dreamy album intro “Two Along the Way,” before absolutely exploding into “Drones” – “Temptation, wanna dance with me,” and everyone was hooked from the first fast paced, fist pumping beat drops. A complete character on stage, his words between songs were sharp and calculated, “Whatever you came here for, I hope you find it,” he cried, before the raw and honest, “Something to Hide.”
No stranger to political messages and inciting an uproar in his music, the returned rally call, “Oh No” saw him going hard flailing around on stage, inviting the crowd to let loose, almost sparking the mosh to come. “Welcome to the fucking Ted Talk,” he quipped. Perfectly balancing the heavy and fast, with the soft and sweet, “I Love You, I’m Trying” followed. A song about leaving a loved one to be on the road making music for fans, he divulged that he has family in Portland. “You motherfuckers like lighthouses, that’s why you have so many of them,” he joked, before calling attention to one fan in the audience, Beth, who has seen him 86 times.
Proving multiple times before that he is a man of his fans, he took a page out of Frank Turner’s book and laid down some “rules” for his show. “Rule #1, when I say jump, jump. Rule #2, sing! Rule #3, don’t be a dickhead or I’ll escort you out.” Picking right back up, older fan favorite, “Bury Me Face Down” had everyone chanting along, while newer track, “Enough” slowed things down and gave fans a taste of the new material.
“Darkside” had the crowd filling in, swaying and singing along with the “la la las.” grandson has a way of painting pictures of current social epidemics with his words, that music fans tend to latch on to and take to heart. Pairing fellow a modern tragedy track “Overdose” compiled his commentary on pressing issues to send the message across.
Fit for a funeral, Suicide Squad’s “Rain” slowed things down, with grandson sitting on the bench, taking it low for a minute, blooming the roses for a perfect flow into “Eulogy.” “If you wake up, and I’m gone, I just hope you sing along, to the eulogy,” to which everyone obliged.
“Stigmata” with its dark and angsty electronic edge saw a mosh break out, which seemed to feed grandson’s energy even more, making him appear like he was launching himself across the stage matching the choppy, yet rhythmic groove. “When The Bomb Goes” called “If you with me, step right up,” and the crowd packed in even tighter, bouncing off one another in unity.
This energy persisted for “Apologize,” where the crowd sang every single word. “Stick Up” had everyone crouching down low before exploding in absolute chaos with (probably/hopefully) water splashing and more moshing. Remember, the rule was, “When I say jump, jump!” and both parties delivered.
Rip roaring rager, “Best Friends” came next, encouraging everyone to get down and dirty and live to the fullest and loudest. Which must’ve worked, because he proclaimed, “We’ve got to come back to Portland more often. 10 out of goddamn 10,” before the smooth and suave, appropriately named favorite, “Dirty” kept the party rolling.
Changing the tone a bit for newest single “Half of My Heart,” he did, “Something very strange for this next part” and brought Andrew from opener No Love for the Middle Child on stage with his cello, to add a nice touch to the already sweet song.
Circling back to the incredible love he has for his fans, he jumped down into the center of the crowd while saying, “I’m most proud that I could kick it with most of you. Some of you are weird as fuck,” before singing the emotional, “Heather,” a tribute to an early fan who took her own life. Surrounded by cell phone lights, the rawness in his voice shone through while everyone shared in the moment. Climbing back on stage, he took the energy from “sad to mad” with the American commentary “Despicable” opening it up and rocking to the drops.
Introducing his band, Lee on guitar and Tobias on the drums, he also welcomed “X” to the stage to pass out water bottles. A brief moment to breathe, as he chirped, “I wrote this at a time in my life when I felt small. I loved music, I loved smoking weed, I was the one in charge,” before “We Did It!!!” A sort of last song to the set, encouraging more progress and growth to be made.
Never actually leaving the stage, so not technically an encore, the anticipated single that set his career in motion, “Blood // Water” built up until grandson ended up in the crowd (almost face planting and shaking it off like nothing happened on the way, check his Instagram). Water splashing and spraying everywhere as everyone left it all on the floor for one last, final raging release.
This show was like a bomb waiting to go off. High energy and high octane, elevating to levels of explosiveness and contagious self-expression, then periodically dipping low at just the right times to highlight contrasts and connectivity, before picking it right back up again. Next time he comes back around, he’ll probably be in bigger venues, or supporting even bigger tours.
Notable Opener: Two piece (Andrew and his touring drummer Gabe), No Love for the Middle Child demanded energy right from the start, asking people to get up and jump along. There were some fans familiar with their music in the audience, singing and dancing along to the drum heavy rhythms and ethereal vocals. They were tight knit, and even with a lot of moving parts, lots of loops, and echoing vocal effects, Andrew still managed to lackadaisically swing the guitar around while jaunting around stage. Being a classically trained musician, he made use of grandson’s pre-set bench, and brought out his cello for the last song “No Sleep,” and created a good atmosphere for what was to come.
Listen to grandson’s new album I Love You, I’m Trying – HERE.