James Vincent McMorrow @ Chevron Festival Gardens, PIAF – Perth (1.03.17) Live Review
The Perth Summer was ending on a balmy note, to put it mildly, a test of endurance for the Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow and his 4 piece band ahead of their hour and a half set in front of a sold out PIAF crowd at the Chevron Festival Gardens on Wednesday night. But the steamy temperatures didn’t stop the hauntingly hypnotic tunes from sending shivers down everyone’s spine as McMorrow’s vocal mastery dominated the set from start to finish.
Ahead of doors open, the Garden was packed with queues outside either entrance to the amphitheatre, a polite and orderly dash to the grandstand seats ensuing as security opened the way. A night without any support acts it was easy to see why, as we gathered along the stage barrier the anticipation was as palpable as the severe humidity weighing down. With sound check over and a small incense stick added to the stage rigging the lights dimmed and the band emerged. While each member moved to their back set equipment, McMorrow took his place at his podium of keys and synths, surrounded by guitar pedals, stationed front and centre just metres away from the eager faces of the crowd edge. Smoke silently filled the air with an angular golden light descending on the lead act as he opened with Red Dust, that crystalline falsetto instantly reaffirming his popularity as he wound through the twisting pop-folk amidst a magically ethereal atmosphere. The climatic ending brought about a cacophony of applause that would only repeat itself throughout the set.
Confident yet softly spoken, McMorrow displayed the value of an understated comedic presence as he joked about already sweating through all his clothes and being ready to f*** off for a power nap to tackle some jet lag. The middle of the set was a mix of the gentle swaying high pitched harmonies he is renowned for, with a hefty dose of raw spitting R&B crossed rock interspersed by energetic bursts from his latest We Move album prevalent towards the end of the set list. Get Low was an early track to earn the best out of the lighting engineers, lazer like beams shooting across the stage as the track transitioned from the smooth verse to the gritty guitar of the chorus line, McMorrow putting extra emphasis into each emotionally charged lyric while Breaking Hearts gathered momentum with its crashing instrumental until the stage was drenched in blindingly bright lights.
The show separated out into two distinct halves, the nervous energy of whether the night’s performance will meet your own internal hype and then the awe inducing turn where you’re not sure how long it’s been, only that you’re sure you don’t want it to end. Down the Burning Ropes was one of those highlights, the whispering intro to the song soaring into an all-out harmony exploding mid song, the drummer erupting on percussion, mouthing along to every lyric in between group vocals. Lost Angles and Higher Love was the first of a solo interlude as McMorrow held the stage alone, throwing in thanks for the crowd, praise for Kurt Vile who played the night before and coaxing out a light sing along from the front rows before performing a new song for the sold out crowd.
Introducing the second half of the set McMorrow joked about having a sad dance party in the heat, telling the crowd “you can cry and dance – they’re not mutually exclusive in my experience”, as the stadium level productions were turned up once more for Gold and a slew of tracks from We Move as he paced the stage and showed off his own dance moves during the funk inspiring Rising Water. The tantalising smells of bbq and cinnamon from next doors Pork and Cider festival were abandoned for sweat but no one seemed to hold complaints. We Don’t Eat earnt a more envigored sing along from the crowd for the first finale, teasing the crowd with the depth of his vocal range as the falsetto closers fell to deep gravelly hums without a false note. Cries and a stampeding foot stomp for encore brought out the infamous If I Had A Boat and a venue wide “Happy Birthday” for guitar roadie Snoopy before finishing with the crescendo producing Cavalier as the stage sank into a sea of red, McMorrow throwing up a fist as he powered through the final lines.
With Adele in town the night before, James Vincent Mcmorrow proved she wasn’t the only international act from across the sea with an enviable set of pipes. Allegedly sporting a fair dose of jet lag it didn’t stop the Irish singer songwriter from performing an hour and a half of diverse, captivating tune with perfect levels of fervour. If there was the chance to watch the group perform every week I would be there in a heartbeat for more. With McMorrow himself stating that Perth had set the bar to serious heights for the remainder of his Australian shows, it was a night that left fans in a daze of bliss.
Author – Steph Payton
AMNPLIFY – DB