Playing to a sell-out venue must, at times, be a little daunting for an artist… even one as popular as James Vincent McMorrow.
I thought about this as James took to the stage in the packed Triffid hangar (3 March), while Roy Ayers’ 'Everybody Loves The Sunshine' welcomed his Amish-looking silhouette on stage.
T’was a nice set opener after the broody, atmospheric, grunge sounds from support Moreton, and there was a quiet buzz in the air.
Opening with 'Red Dust' delighted many, though moving through this set without introductions, I felt it was a little introverted or perhaps we were still getting to know each other. Either way, it was just the beginning of the evening and we had a way to go yet.
Heading into 'Gettin’ Low', ambience was building, though still a little subdued. As the band left the stage, James stripped things right back for a few acoustic numbers. Lyrics are expansive, his signature haunting vocals are fat with emotion, immersing the audience in atmospheric bliss.
Weaving in early classic 'Down The Burning Ropes' from 'Early In The Morning' and more recent number 'Lost Angels', the energy in the room changed… sultry, and connective. It felt like everyone in the room was starting to have the same incredible, aural adventure.
Livening things up with his well-received cover of Steve Winwood’s 'Higher Love', he welcomed the band back to the stage. Opening up a little more, James shared a little banter about himself and his lyrical style, his true, quirky self started to emerge.
Launching into dynamic performances of 'Gold' and 'Killer Whales', efforts were honoured with a greater response from his audience. Excitement and participation progressively grew throughout 'Rising Water', ending in a light quip about the heat in the hangar, before moving on with the sweet gospel sounds of 'Evil'.
'We Don't Eat'... This number had the everyone in the house singing along with James, gradually the crescendo grew, until it felt the crowd were completely intertwined.
Slowly, the performance bloomed into the glorious, full expression of harmony in vocals creating a sense of total inclusion... all were in awe and in full participation, feeling every note, every rise and every fall in mood and pitch together.
The performance developed, becoming more engaging with each new song. When it came time for the encore, James was very gracious in mentioning a handful of Australian artists he has worked with. Included were Moreton, quite obviously as his current support band, then Jarryd James and Airling from previous tour collaborations.
His incredible encore included 'If I Had A Boat' and 'Cavalier'. The dust settles in the same specific place. This was like a first date with a little apprehension to start, flourishing into a beautiful friendship. It was a nice first date, I’d see him again.