‘If I had a boat’… James Vincent McMorrow Live @ The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh

This is admittedly a rather significant break-out from my usual sporting theme but having been privileged enough to have attended Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night I felt compelled to share my views…

James Vincent-McMorrow (if you haven’t heard of him) is an Irish folk singer with one album to his name. This album ‘Early in the morning’ is a fantastic blend of soulful acoustic spine-tinglers and soaring guitar led folk songs, if you haven’t heard the album then I strongly recommend it! Though he has made appearances on Radio 2’s live lounge and Later with Jools Holland he is yet to have made a huge impression on Britain’s mainstream music scene, but hopefully his talent will soon reach the ears of many more people.

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon him through coincidentally synchronised recommendations from my father and a friend. When they suggested that I looked him up I was vaguely interested, but within thirty seconds of ‘If I had a Boat’ I knew they had pushed me closer to my personal musical ecstasy. I was hooked from the word go.

Having since tried my utmost to spread the word about him to like-minded lovers of modern folk and acoustic music I am proud to say that his first album has firmly cemented it’s place in the album’s I have loved most in my life. His voice, to me, is close to perfection. He has a stunning vocal range spanning from the depths of moodiness and melancholy to the high-pitched and heart-breaking peak of his falcetto. I can happily accept that he may not be to the taste of all-comers but I would find it hard to accept criticism of his voice in isolation.

All of the praise I have lavished upon him above is merely off the back of listening to his record, but now (courtesy of a birthday treat) I have seen him first hand. In the charming Queen’s Hall of Edinburgh (complete with candle-lit tables for the audience) I finally got to see James live as I had longed to do ever since my first listen of his album. I think I can say without hesitation that his concert was above and beyond anything I have had the pleasure of seeing before.

From start to finish his vocal performance was flawless and the instrumental performance of him and his brilliant band reeked of a wealth of gigging experience. He opened with the upbeat ‘Sparrow and Wolf’ and immediately had the audience well on side. The vocal harmony between him and his equally gifted band/backing singers was so tight, so clean, so polished and utterly beautiful.

Other haunting renditions of album tracks such as ‘Old Dark Machine’ (my personal favourite from the album), and ‘Follow you down to the red oak tree’ came in hot pursuit of the vibrant start to the set and begun to lull the audience into something of a trance.

Following the opening stint of him and his band in tandem came a fifteen minute interlude where James went solo. It was in this fifteen minutes that he came completely into his own. This solo part of his set was magical. Aside from his voice and his instruments there was not even the slightest hint of a noise in the room. It was like nothing I have ever experienced at a gig. The haunting ‘We Are Ghosts’ and ‘Higher Love’ were received with awe by the audience as they were suckered into his own little world.

When his band returned to his side they played ‘From the Woods” which begins as another haunting folk track before soaring to it’s climax with a cacophony of harmonious vocals accompanied by rousing play from the band. ‘If I had a boat’ was next on the setlist and it feels every bit an anthem when performed live as it builds slowly through the gears delivering it’s sweet sentiment along the way.

When the set reached the traditional ‘encore’ moment, described by Vincent McMorrow himself as being “part of the pageantry”, he was met with a wall of appreciation. Having returned to the stage on his own he told the audience that he would perform a final song and that it would be a cover. He also said that when the audience realised what the song was that they would laugh. I can’t say I heard any laughter…

The song he performed was Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’, widely regarded as one of if not the greatest ‘one-hit wonder’ of all time. The ghostly ballad in it’s original form is a heart-wrenching tale of the the power of love and the things it can drive us to do. I can honestly say that it was the most outstanding moment of any gig that I have ever been privy to. His pained performance of the song was delivered with such emotion and handled so delicately that by the end of it no one wanted him to stop.

If you are aware of his music and have had the privilege of seeing him live then I’m sure you’ll agree that you want to see him again. If you are aware of his music but haven’t seen him live then I implore you to go and see him. If you haven’t listened to his music and haven’t seen him live then get involved, you won’t regret it.

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