He’s not as big here as he is in his native Ireland, where his recent third album went to number one, but there are still strong feelings for James Vincent McMorrow here. I’ve rarely seen a more genuine desire for an encore from a London crowd that usually knows its stars are going to return regardless.
Perhaps it’s only the most intensely faithful who have followed McMorrow on his journey from folky, understated troubadour to the kind of bold soul voice that gets sampled on the latest Drake album. Here his sound was constructed from four keyboards, two drumkits (one standard, one electronic), guitar, bass and most importantly, five voices that swooped and fluttered in blissful unison.
He could have performed alone and still raised the roof with a falsetto that had dizzying height and power too. When the band departed briefly halfway through, both Lost Angles and his breakthrough cover of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love held attention absolutely.
He may still be in transition. He described one segment, beginning with Gold and its synthesized horn blasts, as “the funk portion of the show?” without sounding completely convinced. But on Down the Burning Ropes, holding an extraordinary high note before a blazing wall of red lights, he was commanding.
As far as a complete experience goes, he lacks any faster songs, and is really an artist to sit down to, but the music shifted between different levels of intensity and rarely lost its grip. McMorrow seemed as thrilled as everyone else to have hit on such a rich, varied seam of funk/soul/folk creativity.