Pop review: James Morrison, Academy, Newcastle

Academy, Newcastle

The late Atlantic Records legend Jerry Wexler said James Morrison's voice had "its own thumbprint". With its echoes of Rod Stewart, the 24-year-old's voice is indeed a great rasping thing that has shifted millions of records. Morrison repackages 1960s soul for people who buy their albums from supermarkets four times a year. This show certainly has elements of a soul revue: the artist's name in massive letters, earthy backing singers and retro lights. Everything, in fact, except soul.

Morrison's voice is wasted on the kind of Identikit songwriting that turns his best efforts into mush. Some songs are empty and blustering; others soul-by-numbers efforts in which the singer meekly plays along, illustrating Please Don't Stop the Rain by putting his hands up as if to halt a downpour.

With those boyish looks, he does press the right buttons, though. In Newcastle, he says, the girls are "fit", while success has meant meeting a lot of "cool people and shit people". Then he thanks Nelly Furtado, with whom he duetted on the hit single Broken Strings, for not telling him to "fuck off".

Call the Police, a deranged song about losing control, talks about him being trapped, and being "a less good version of a man I don't wanna be". It's an interesting idea. When he gets earthiness into his music, it works. If You Don't Wanna Love Me is a sublime, purifying soul showstopper Otis Redding would have been proud of. It shows what Morrison could do given the right writers, a personal crisis or two - and a spell in Memphis.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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