In James Vincent McMorrow’s new campaign shots, he sits fresh-faced and blue-eyed with a multicoloured miniature keyboard; it’s a small clue to how far he’s travelled creatively since his folky debut release six years ago. Tonight, eight dates into the campaign’s tour, he plays his biggest London gig to date at the Roundhouse, marking the recent release of ‘We Move’, his third studio album which rose to number one in his homeland, Ireland.
Some contemporaries may struggle getting the atmosphere going at the Roundhouse on a Monday night, but this is not an issue for McMorrow, who has the crowd keenly engaged from the outset and genuinely pumped by the end of his 90 minute performance. It’s evident McMorrow’s blood, sweat and tears have gone into producing this show, something not lost on the sold-out crowd of close to 2,000. He recalls his first London show to “60 people somewhere south of the river” and remarks how things have changed.
For me, McMorrow’s unique selling point has always been his voice, and this belief is upheld tonight – it’s faultless; impressive not just in falsetto but colourful and rich in the lower registers too. His band – acoustic guitars and pianos replaced with sample pads and multi-stack synths – provides a solid backdrop. But his moment of greatness arrives when he performs solo; a goose pimple-inducing performance of Higher Love, proving a personal highlight.
Much of the show is, of course, devoted to new material from ‘We Move’, on which McMorrow – showcasing his development as a songwriter and collaborator – moves confidently into new territory. The result is bold and courageous, with clear 80s funk, soul and R&B influences, five-part harmonies, and big ballady back beats. The set’s standouts from the new album, for me, are Rising Water and One Thousand Times, but it’s favourites from 2010’s ‘Early in the Morning’ which are the most well received all round, with We Don’t Eat and Breaking Hearts providing more memorable moments.
‘We Move’ is out now on Believe Recordings and the accompanying tour continues until December, with upcoming dates in Europe and North America.
In case you missed it, here’s McMorrow performing Rising Water, the first single taken from ‘We Move’ on Jools Holland the other week:
Writer and Photographer: Will Steadman: @steadman_will