PIAF: James Vincent McMorrow Demonstrates the Extent of his Vocal Prowess at the Gardens
Starting at spot on 8 o’clock (sans opening act), James Vincent McMorrow immediately set the scene for what was to follow with a stirring rendition of “Red Dust”, showcasing his elastic vocal prowess. In studio recordings, his voice is pretty and pleasant, sometimes sounding delicate and airy. Live, it’s a force of nature, elevating a pleasant indie pop show into something to behold.
Not to say the musical landscape wasn’t captivating. Delivering a set largely built on songs from his latest album We Move, the full-band dynamic suited McMorrow well, especially the vocal harmonies. Fan favourites like “We Don’t Eat” felt positively powerful with the reinforcement of added percussion, harmonies, keys and guitars. Still, McMorrow was equally captivating when his four touring bandmates left the stage for a mid-show solo set featuring songs like “Higher Love”.
I was pleasantly surprised by McMorrow’s entrancing stage presence. During a riveting rendition of “Rising Water”, he paced about the stage, fist pumping the air and dancing like a slightly tamer Samuel T. Herring. He is also a master at the deceptively difficult art of stage banter; his jokes were funny and endearing, not awkward. After a groovy performance of “Gold”, he informed the crowd that “you can cry and dance at the same time”, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Every compliment dealt to his audience was genuine and moving (“This is beautiful…”), matching the energy and appreciation given off by the capacity Chevron Festival Gardens tenfold. “You guys have set an impossibly high bar for the rest of my Australian shows,” he commented near the end of the set.
James Vincent McMorrow is an artist that simply needs to be witnessed live to fully appreciate his art. I mean, his albums are really damn good. But the extent of his vocal range, the simultaneous subtlety and complexity of his arrangements, the real artistry that goes into his work… These all need to be seen to be believed. Capping off a gripping night with “Cavalier” (which serves just as well as an encore closer than as an album introduction), McMorrow never wavered in appeal. And you’d be hard pressed to find another individual with a set of lungs like this guy.