At his January concert earlier this year, James Vincent McMorrow promised he would be back on Australian soil by winter, and last Thursday he made good on this promise.
The Irish singer-songwriter came back in style for the Vivid Sydney festival, and expectations were high for McMorrow and his three-piece backing band, to adapt the undeniably solid material of his two albums (Early in the Morning and Post Tropical) to the live environment.
On the night, the domestic, technical two-piece, Airling, who can easily be likened to UK powerhouse London Grammar, warmed up the early arriving crowd with their dream-pop escapades. The front-woman, Hannah-Shepherd, used an octavator on her vocals, which brought more depth to their sound and created an ethereal vibe for the main act to come.
On the dot of nine, McMorrow emerged from the darkness. With the band dispersed amongst illuminating prisms, he took no hesitation and burst into his perpetual falsetto, astounding even his most devoted fans.
Up until the fourth song ‘Red Dust,’ the show seemed over-rehearsed, flawless but somewhat inhuman: almost too perfect. However, when he finally broke the fourth wall and confessed to the audience, “this is crazy shit,” the performance took an immediate turn.
Following his nervous admission, ‘This Old Dark Machine,’ brightened the mood. The rendition was jazzed-up from the album version with a syncopated keyboard and a faster tempo.
There was an inconsistent performance of the crowd-favourite, ‘Cavalier,’ which opens the sophomore album, Post Tropical. The vocals were initially pitchy, uncharacteristic of McMorrow, and his keyboardist came in with a comically wrong sound setting for the chorus. Although, this serves that the man and his band are only human after all. Easily forgiven when he charismatically joked (as the Irish do so well), “It’s the blessing and cursing of technology.”
Instruments were being exchanged and rearranged all throughout the night. McMorrow would trade his acoustic for an electric, mainly depending which album he was playing on. He also spent much time on the piano, including his solo cover of ‘Higher Love’ (originally by Steve Winwood), which set him apart back in 2010. In addition, he banged away on a floor tom drum in the percussion-heavy, ‘We Don’t Eat.’
McMorrow had the crowd in mutual admiration. It was a night where individuals that had an intimate connection with the work of one man came together in a room, to the surprise that an entire concert hall felt the exact same way.