James Vincent McMorrow
The Dublin singer is charging forward into new sonic territory
James Vincent McMorrow: his soaring, soulful voice and hunger for new ideas will put him ahead of the game. Photograph: Emma J Doyle via The New York Times
James Vincent McMorrow
National Concert Hall, Dublin
This is about as close to home as a James Vincent McMorrow gig gets. The National Concert Hall is just a stone’s throw from the Dublin singer’s home, and it’s also where he has his studio space. “So it’s like doing a gig around the corner from my house and downstairs from my studio – it’s surreal,” he tells the audience.
McMorrow is back on home turf after a brief tour of Australia, and he has something new for us: his superb second album, Post Tropical. To call it a progression from his 2010 debut, Early in the Morning, is an understatement. Where his debut had a strong retro-roots feel, Post Tropical charges forward into new sonic territory, and finds McMorrow taking apart the components of traditional songwriting and reassembling them into strange, beguiling shapes. Any fear that he might have become an Irish Ray LaMontagne is blown away by the impressionistic swirls of Cavalier, The Lakes and Red Dust. Post Tropical brings him level with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver, but it’s his soaring, soulful voice and hunger for new ideas that will put him ahead of the game.
The NCH stage is adorned with softly lit pyramids, and a bearded McMorrow stands behind a keyboard, which shares equal playing time with his guitar. His band, Jill Deering, Jay Wilson and Paul Kenny, handle an array of instruments, including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, clarinet, mandolin and pedal steel, but when all four come together and harmonise on the
head-spinning motifs of Gold, Look Out, Glacier and Post Tropical, you can almost see the pyramid-adorned stage levitate. If I had a beard, it would be tingling with static electricity.
When McMorrow pulls out a favourite track from his debut album, This Old Dark Machine, it’s like he’s getting back on his trusty old tractor, just for old times’ sake. But although he’s ploughing new ground now, he still finds common cause with his older songs. We Don’t Eat and If I Had a Boat row in nicely with the new material, and there’s a warm sense of belonging in new songs, including Outside, Digging. He’s doing the same magic tonight and tomorrow, so those lucky enough to have tickets will get a couple of blissful hours in McMorrow’s healing hands.