James Vincent McMorrow at The National Concert Hall – Review & Photos
The National Concert Hall provided a suitably elegant setting for James Vincent McMorrow to deliver the first of three hometown shows. In fact it couldn’t have been more of a hometown gig for McMorrow – his house is around the corner and he has a studio upstairs in the Concert Hall so at least he didn’t have far to travel to get home afterwards. Those that travelled further on a wet and blustery Dublin night were well rewarded though as McMorrow delivered a mesmerising performance that will live long in the memory.
Support on the night came from Slow Skies, who overcame some understandable jitters about playing such an imposing and prestigious venue to deliver an impressive set of dreamy indie-pop built on a foundation of some tribal tom-heavy drumming. Singer Karen Sheridan’s voice was particularly notable; gentle yet powerful, much like the music that Slow Skies produce.
Having been suitably warmed up by Slow Skies, a sold out crowd gave a rapturous welcome to the main attraction as James and his band made their way on to a stage that was lit only by curious pyramids dotted around the place.
The set leaned heavily on the recently released album Post Tropical, a record that has seen McMorrow take a huge leap artistically and it translated incredibly well to a live setting. His voice is an instrument of high-pitched beauty and he indulged in some impressive falsetto gymnastics throughout the set, most notably on the outro to Red Dust, which was an early highlight.
Some tracks from his first album Early In The Morning did get an airing and fitted in seamlessly with the new material. The underlying menace of Burning Down The Ropes was contrasted wonderfully by the gentle Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree that follows it, while We Don’t Eat drew huge cheers from the crowd as McMorrow took to the drum that sat beside his keyboard to bring the song to a rousing climax.
As the set wore on, McMorrow seemed to relax and engage with the crowd more, telling amusing stories about drunken Australian girls who wanted him to take his shirt off at a recent gig among other amusing anecdotes. Throughout the gig he came across as wonderfully self-effacing and humble which, armed with the confident delivery of the incredible songs, really endeared him to the crowd. Gold and Cavalier provided the high points later in the set before Outside Digging drew the main set to a gentle ending.
James returned to the stage on his own for a beautiful solo rendition of If My Heart Should Somehow Stop before the rest of the bad returned to close out the show with If I Had A Boat. Jill Deerig, Jay Wilson and Paul Kenny joined McMorrow in fantastic four part harmonies to bring the night to a rousing close.
There were big grins on all of their faces as they took to the front of the stage to accept the standing ovation from a crowd that were grinning eagerly back at them; a last mutual show of affection on a night that left a warm fuzzy feeling inside those who were about to brave the cold to return home very satisfied.
Review by Mark O’Brien
Photos by Tudor Marian