Review: James Vincent McMorrow, O2 Academy

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Most gigs are typified by their audience. When Warpaint played at the O2 last year, virtually every single person in the room was wearing a striped black and white top and thick-rimmed glasses, while an ill-advised trip to see the Maccabees playing at the Town Hall could have very easily followed on from a (slightly sweaty) all male A Level information meeting. James Vincent McMorrow’s fans, from what I could see from my spot by the sticky bar, are a total mix. This is probably because his music is so bloody pleasant – hardly cutting-edge, but really very difficult to dislike. McMorrow’s Early in the Morning is, like Dido’s No Angel, a perfect album for listening to in the car (or the library, or most other places).

I was concerned that his ‘haunting + atmospheric’ combo mix might not necessarily translate to a successful set at the worst venue of all time, but had absolutely nothing to fear. McMorrow performed almost the entirety of the album with consistent aplomb, punctuated with humour, humility and an awful lot of guitar tuning. Though his intersong chat might be characterized as being a little bit rambly at times, overall, one is left with the impression that he is probably just a really nice person – much like his music.

There are a few minor things that made this evening such an enjoyable one: exceptional company; really sublime lighting; McMorrow’s Irish accent and slightly patchy beard; winning a (rather long-winded) pun rally with a fellow viewer – and then, some major ones, like that McMorrow is a joy to watch. The falsetto was out in full force this evening, for almost two hours. Sometimes this was almost unspeakably brilliant – a rendition of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Games’ moved me almost to tears. It is hard to pick out other highlights, although a fresh and fairly exciting take on ‘If I Had a Boat’ makes for a pretty serious contender. The best essays usually reap the smallest amounts of praise: I can probably sum up the evening with a lone ‘Excellent work’ at the bottom of the page.

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