James Vincent McMorrow – review

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

"This is going to be atrocious, but feck it," declares James Vincent McMorrow with as much optimism as a man brandishing a mandolin and battling a heavy cold can be expected to muster. In fact, McMorrow feels so bad he admits to almost abandoning the gig completely. His decision to play is admirable, but his biliousness casts a melancholy shadow over his biggest headline show since the release of his debut album, Early in the Morning, last spring.

It is also the first time his five-piece band have played together – not that you would know it. From the moment the breathless rhythm and faultless harmonies unite beneath McMorrow's trembling falsetto on Sparrow and the Wolf, they are a perfect fit, and the Irish songsmith's haunting, soulful sound blossoms with their support. Following the rollicking folk of Breaking Hearts, just the opening notes of Hear the Noise that Moves So Soft and Low sends fans whooping, though some wolf whistles leave the self-deprecating, self-acknowledged loner looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Alone on stage for an acoustic solo spot, though, McMorrow appears completely at ease. His big notes send Down the Burning Ropes soaring, the shivering beauty of his voice recalling Antony Hegarty at his most intimate and David Gray at his least boring. Having established an eccentric taste in covers, McMorrow's take on Antony and the Johnsons' Hope There's Someone, and then Wolves by Phosphorescent, prove serious and stunning alike.

Reunited with his band, McMorrow "powers through" his own big hitters If I Had a Boat and We Don't Eat. His cold almost wins the day during an encore of Red Dust, but if he is this memorable off-form, infection-free he will be unstoppable.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
James Vincent McMorrow: review
When he sings in his natural register, he triumphs. Otherwise he's a knock-off Bon Iver, writes Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont

27, Jan, 2014 @5:05 PM

Article image
James Vincent McMorrow: Post Tropical – review
The Irish singer-songwriter's second album is woozy, beautiful and sentimental, writes Harriet Gibsone

Harriet Gibsone

09, Jan, 2014 @10:01 PM

James Vincent McMorrow: Post Tropical – review

James Vincent McMorrow's second album sees him broadening his palette to multitracked, often magnificent ends, writes Ally Carnwath

Ally Carnwath

12, Jan, 2014 @12:03 AM

Article image
New band of the day – No 932: James Vincent McMorrow
Raised on hardcore punk, this Justin Vernon lookalike has retreated into haunting, atmospheric acoustic territory

Paul Lester

16, Dec, 2010 @5:20 PM

Article image
James Vincent McMorrow review – a warm sonic blanket

Armed with a dramatic light show and a piercing falsetto, the Irishman deslivers a gig that is sonically and visually compelling, writes Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips

30, May, 2014 @6:40 AM

James Vincent McMorrow performs 'We Are Ghosts' at the Other Voices festival - video

Watch James Vincent McMorrow playing We Are Ghosts in a tiny church in Dingle in 2009

28, Nov, 2011 @6:57 PM

Article image
James Vincent McMorrow: 'I like my own musical company'

Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow talks to Tom Lamont about drink, the 'Death Star' – and what it takes to be a musician on his own terms

Tom Lamont

05, Jan, 2014 @12:05 AM

Article image
St Vincent – review

A killer new album and this terrific show full of blood, funk and moonwalking confirm the sense that St Vincent is moving from leftfield oddity to out-and-out star, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

23, Feb, 2014 @6:15 PM

Article image
Cass McCombs – review

The eclectic and prolific underground artist shows he can be jawdroppingly beautiful and rip-roaringly deadpan, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

12, Jan, 2014 @2:54 PM

Article image
Ben Howard – review

The 26-year-old Devonian who won two Brit awards is so ambivalent about the spotlight he plays this gig in the dark, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

13, Jun, 2013 @4:52 PM