Wednesday, 5 February 2014

James Vincent McMorrow at The National Concert Hall (04/02/14) - A Review

The intimate setting of the National Concert Hall is an excellent venue for any singer songwriter worth their salt, and as I found out last night, a perfect environment for James Vincent McMorrow, who returned home to Dublin in style on a stormy February evening. The diverse nature of McMorrow's duo of albums had many in the audience wondering pre-show whether we were going to hear the acoustic folk stylings of debut Early In The Morning or the electronic beauty of his recently acclaimed follow up Post Tropical. As it turns out, we get both.

On a minimally designed stage, the modest figure of McMorrow shuffles out accompanied by a three piece backing band and immediately gets down to work, delivering an exquisite opening of ''The Lakes'' as the Irishman effortlessly recreates his vocals from the album, before an almost solo acoustic ''Hear That Noise...'', complimented quietly by vocals from the back up trio who almost sneak in behind the track. It's an impressive start that continues with a collection of Post Tropical tracks, most notably ''Glacier'' which utilizes live piano and drum to great effect for a slightly more charged and immediate version than on record, while McMorrow's voice continues to ring around the venue with a stunning vocal conclusion on ''Red Dust''. More debut work soon follows in the shape of ''Down The Burning Ropes'' with its cinematic, building climax before the slow acoustic burner of ''Follow You Down To The Old Oak Tree''.

It takes a while for McMorrow to get used to his audience, with a couple of mumbled ''It's nice to be home'''s early on before he begins to feel at ease and slows things down for some much appreciated interaction with the audience, as he tells us of the surreal nature of this show for him, having lived in a house around the corner from the venue most his life. He's actually a pretty funny guy too; stories of being misinterpreted by Australian teen fans have the crowd in stitches, and a little light relief goes down a treat alongside the mostly somber collection of tunes.

As he begins to get comfortable with the audience, a free and spirited stage persona starts to open up a little more with an intense performance of ''This Old Dark Machine'', before we are introduced to ''the dance section of the concert'' by McMorrow which gets plenty of laughs when the singer-songwriter attempts to do the robot. While maybe not quite as danceable as he'd have you believe, ''All Points'' is certainly one of the more experimental tracks on the second album and a highlight of the gig, but without a doubt the performance of the night goes to ''We Don't Eat'', which is no doubt aided by a tremendous reception from the crowd. The song ends with McMorrow pounding away on a second drum, just another of the various instruments on show tonight, a surefire testament to the artist's versatility.

Just before the set is brought to a close, McMorrow introduces the band- Jill Deering, Jay Wilson and Paul Kenny, who each deserve the strong recognition they recieve from the audience, having provided truly exceptional backing all night, on ''75 instruments'' as McMorrow himself puts it. The band opt to finish in a quiet manner with ''Outside, Digging'' in order to ''settle them down'' and it works for the audience too, with Post Tropical's closing track acting as the perfect comedown and outro for an immaculately timed, well paced set.

An encore doesn't take long however, and soon we're greeted again by McMorrow, this time with just an acoustic guitar and no backing, making for an intimate solo rendition of ''If My Heart Should Somehow Stop'', before another massive favourite ''If I Had A Boat'' officially ends things on a great note. The  vibe afterwards in the Concert Hall is an inherently satisfied one, and it'd be hard not to be impressed with what has just been witnessed as JVM replicates and even betters his sound in a live setting, an increasing rarity these days in modern music. The fact that McMorrow mentions his upbringing around the corner from here may have been offhand but it's a remarkable fact too considering how much this down to earth inner city man has achieved in such a short space of time, both on record and with the natural, raw talent that he displays so passionately on stage. For sure, James Vincent McMorrow is an Irishman to be proud of right now and most probably for a long time to come, a fact that is proven by witnessing his live performance.


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