James Vincent McMorrow at Commodore Ballroom

Monday 28th, November 2016 / 10:10
By Sheena Antonios
James Vincent McMorrow at Commodore Ballroom. Photo: Justin Uitto

James Vincent McMorrow at Commodore Ballroom.
Photo: Justin Uitto

November 24, 2016

VANCOUVER — Amongst the monsoon and Amber Alerts Vancouver was experiencing, James Vincent McMorrow played at the Commodore Ballroom. This was the Irish singer-songwriter’s third performance in Vancouver celebrating his newest album We Move. It is arguably his most celebrated album to date – it received international praise when released in September. At first, one is tempted to interpret this album as romance driven due to the R&B styles and McMorrow’s soulful vocals. However, at closer listen one may interpret it as almost entirely self-reflective and depicting McMorrow’s unapologetic acceptance of himself.

To walk into this show three songs late would have been a colossal shame although still not a disappointment. McMorrow spent the first three songs building up the energy within himself and the crowd in order to release a full-fledged emotional rollercoaster about 15 minutes in. The artist largely stuck to tracks from the touring album however, the usual suspects from his older work did make an appearance such as the cover “Higher Love” and his cult classic, “We Don’t Eat,” which was suitably his pre-encore finisher.

There was an element of authenticity that came from McMorrow and his band that is so often dulled when artists are coming to the end of a tour. He was unarguably present and engaged during his performance. Furthermore, his music has a unique ability to leave you stimulated despite sounding undoubtedly melancholy. McMorrow is one of those rare artists that manages to sound better during live performances than recorded ones. Something that is achievable when the sounds are well balanced and the vocalist is particularly talented – as is very true with McMorrow.

There were two tracks that really stood out in terms of energy on and off stage. The first was the aforementioned turning point in the show, “Killer Whales“ and genuinely transformed the performance from good to great. The emotion evoked whilst performing this song triggered wondering if this particular song holds a special spot for McMorrow. The second honourable mention, “A Thousand Times,” is a song written to be performed live and was very well received by the crowd.

There was an undeniable sense of gratitude emitted by McMorrow throughout the show perhaps due to the correlation with American Thanksgiving. Fans who have seen him in Vancouver in previous years might have found it calming that he no longer fills the space between songs with jokes and chatter but feels comfortable performing in a strictly musical way. James Vincent McMorrow is undeniably a very emotionally intelligent person and this came across during his set in Vancouver. McMorrow personifies many feelings the current generation is trying to cope with, “People listening to my songs and believing that I’m out in the forest all day long, thinking about trees. Because I’m actually at home, trying to convince myself to go out and get milk.”

Also notable during this show is that in the second verse of “Higher Love” McMorrow suddenly asked his band to “cool it for a second” while he personally checked on a girl in the front of the crowd who appeared to have fainted. McMorrow won some brownie points with the Vancouver crowd as he reminded everyone to stay hydrated. Come visit again soon, James.

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