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Concert Review: The Delight of Growing Up with Grentperez for a Night

Josh Ehlke (left), grentperez (centre), and Timi Temple (right), singing "Clementine", the 2021 fan-favourite single.

Staff Writer Deborah Solomon reviews Grentperez’ touring concert ‘Growing Up?’ highlighting the superb music combined with a crowd of kindness.

Clad with peace signs and playful footwork, grentperez greeted a roaring crowd of approximately 800 people at the O2 Academy Islington on 18 February 2024. His second performance at the London venue, the first having been a week earlier, he, along with band members Timi Temple (background vocals and bass) and Josh Ehlke (drums), launched into a thrilling set. The show marked their final performance on the European leg of the ‘Growing Up?’ tour. In a concert with an excellent opening act, fantastic band, and exuberant crowd, Perez’ charismatic and endearing performance was nothing short of delightful.

The opening act, FARR, a duo comprised of Roméo (Los Angeles vocalist) and Linden Jay (London producer), set the mood of the show. While all of FARR’s songs were terrific, their standout song for me was their 2019 single, “Someway Somehow”. The live version of this soul/R&B-influenced track features what sounded like a stripped back version of Linden Jay’s smooth production on the studio version, which simultaneously has a grittiness to it, matching the attitude of the song’s lyrics. Furthermore, in my opinion, “Someway Somehow” best showcased Roméo’s fantastic range and astonishing falsetto, which elicited whooping praises from the crowd. This concert was the duo’s final performance on Grentperez’ tour and their gratitude to him and the audience added to their winning charm, even prompting Perez to greet them from underneath the stage, in front of the barricade, which only made the cheers for the pair grow louder. Everyone seemed quite sorry to see them go, but was comforted by the fact that the end of FARR’s set meant the beginning of Perez’ was not far behind.

FARR (left, Linden Jay; right, Roméo) performing their 2019 electronic soul single, “Someway Somehow”, during their opening set for Grentperez.

22 year old Grant Perez, Sydney-based Filipino-Australian singer-songwriter, known professionally by his stylised name of Grentperez, is best known for his hit, “Cherry Wine”, which has nearly 138 million streams on Spotify. Despite this, he is, in my opinion, quite an underrated artist, with an “indie jazz and pop sound” that occasionally sounds reminiscent of bossa nova. While much of his lyrics cover the various aspects of romantic relationships, his 2023 EP, When We Were Younger, focuses more on growing up, childhood nostalgia, and warmly remembering relationships (both romantic and platonic). Undoubtedly, this EP, being his latest full-length work and predominantly focusing on the aforementioned themes, was the basis for the name of his current tour.

Perez’ discography includes energetic songs, like “Op Shop Lover” (featuring Lime Cordiale), and tender acoustic and string instrument ballads, like “Us Without Me”. Songs of the former category translated to intensely enthusiastic performances, with an electricity and crowd participation reserved exclusively for the live show. His opening song, “When The Day Is Done” brought this electricity, setting a standard of high energy and heavy audience participation from the start. The songs “Ego” and “Confusing Girl” created a similar, if not even more amplified energy emanating from Perez, jumping around in bounding stomps across the stage, and emulated by the bouncing crowd, happy to follow his example.

“It’s you my heart beats for!” the audience bellowed during “My Heart It Beats for You”, to which a laughing Perez responded with “Aw, thanks guys.”

Songs of the latter category, especially in the acoustic set made up of three songs performed solely by Perez, evoked almost cult-like, impassioned recitations of his lyrics. The first song from the acoustic set, “My Heart It Beats for You”, was prefaced by an impromptu language test and lesson, as the track features a lyric in Tagalog (one of the two official languages of the Philippines). A particularly heart-warming moment occurred when Perez expressed pride in being able to represent the Filipino community and also merrily noted the ethnic diversity present in the audience. “Absence of You”, the final song of the acoustic set and a favourite of mine, was a perfect blend of Perez’ adept guitar playing and ethereally compelling vocals accompanied by the crowd’s transfixed echo of the lyrics. The subsequent return of the immensely talented band, Temple and Ehlke, heralded with it a return to more lively tracks, ultimately ending the concert with “Cherry Wine”, which was a combined performance between Perez and the now deafening audience. 

Perez and the band’s overall performance had a very impish and light-hearted quality to it, with bits and jokes throughout. In jest, he introduced the concert as his “comedy show”, which was fitting, as he had us in stitches on various occasions throughout. His interactions with the audience ranged from heartfelt to humorous to adorable, which made it impossible not to like him. Between their interactions with each other and the fans, Perez and his band comfortably took on the roles of entertainers as well as musicians. Without the glitz and glamour of an elaborate set, which some performers partially rely on to deliver a worthwhile show, the trio’s personalities and dynamic left nothing to be desired.

Perez and Temple messing around during “Stuck On You”, an upbeat ode to platonic devotion, fitting both their dynamic and the scene above.

While the musicians themselves were crucial to the enjoyment of the concert, the audience must also be acknowledged in the part they played to elevate the experience. The most apt way I find myself able to describe that crowd of 800 people is having the feeling of being with a massive group of best friends you’ll never see again. Everyone was bonded by their love of GrentPerez, whether they knew a single song or had committed his discography to memory. Most noticeably, the kindness shown by the crowd to one another was on a level I have never witnessed at any concert I’ve previously attended. For example, at an early point in the show, the friend group of a somewhat petite member of the audience moved the petite person to the front, right next to me, so that they would be able to see and experience the show to its fullest. Another example came closer to the end of Perez’ set, when two of the people in the first row switched places with someone in the second row, so that the person could film and fully enjoy what I assume was their favourite song (“Confusing Girl”).

In both instances of these considerate acts, it was clear that everyone wanted one another to have the best experience possible. Maybe this loveliness was prompted by the intimate nature of the smaller venue or perhaps Grentperez fans make a point of practising a motto outlined in his song, “Silver Lining”: “…love and peace in this life ‘til the end….” Whatever the cause may be, the show’s vibe was epitomised when he gave a brief speech saying, “You know, there’s a lot of people in the world that love you. I’m sure that everybody around you loves you.” He then requested that everyone look around the room “left, right, front, back” and say, “I love you,” to one another. Before he even finished the sentence, the room erupted with “I love you’s” between friends, couples, and strangers alike. 

“Even if our stars don’t end up aligning, there’s a silver lining between,” Perez serenades the audience, all smiles during “Silver Lining”.

As for the matter of ticket prices, the VIP early upgrade cost an additional £20.00 to the £17.95 general admission ticket. The upgrade allowed us to get early access to the merchandise stand and secure standing spots right in the middle of the third row, in perfect view of the stage and almost up against the barricade. It was a great spot because we could see Perez excellently, and we’d like to believe he could easily spot us. Compared to the skyrocketing prices of other general admission concert tickets, let alone the cost of adding on a VIP upgrade, his prices for both were quite reasonable and, in the opinion of myself and the friend who accompanied me, entirely worth the money.

To conclude, the concert was a genuinely beautiful experience, largely because of FARR and Perez’ performances, but notably also due to the incredible audience, who allowed their love for Perez to ripple outward to the sea of surrounding strangers. The Growing Up? Tour ended on its Asian leg in early March, but take this as your early notice to be on the lookout for his (hopefully speedy) return to London. Grentperez is not one to miss, as his discography and live show turn the growing pains of young adulthood into an entirely joyous experience.

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