James Vincent McMorrow – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 11, 2014
There is something about Ireland that breeds singer-songwriters, like Damien Rice, Villagers and the recent buzz-worthy Hozier. Enter James Vincent McMorrow. Having only picked up a guitar at the age of 19, the late boomer quickly tried to master other instruments in order to create richer layers of composition. Like a Celtic Bon Iver, McMorrow trapped himself in a house on an Irish coast to produce his 2010 debut, Early in the Morning. He recently returned to the limelight with his follow-up, Post Tropical, which dropped earlier this year. Although he’s categorized as a folk singer, McMorrow’s sophomore effort definitely shines more on the R&B and soul influences in his music.
On Friday, playing the second of two sold-out New York City shows (the first at The Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday), the Irishman descended onstage at Music Hall of Williamsburg to riotous cheers that never really let up all night. Between “Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Low” and “Glacier,” the crowd chatter came to a fever pitch before hushing sounds echoed throughout the venue for McMorrow’s distinct high-pitched falsetto to ring clear. Conversation ebbed and flowed between songs, which continued with the singer-songwriter appropriately bathed in red lights for “Red Dust.” He didn’t address fans until halfway into his set, expressing his thankfulness to close out his amazing American tour in Brooklyn.
The fans couldn’t hold in their appreciation, shouting out, ”Sing it” and “Come on, Ireland” during songs. Concertgoers clapped along to “We Don’t Eat” and joined in to sing the chorus, “That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table/ We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust.” At times the outbursts interfered with the performance, like when McMorrow performed the D’Angelo-inspired “Cavalier.” It could have been a special moment when silence would have elevated the song, but the spell was broken time and again. Nevertheless, McMorrow performed a rare solo cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.” And following a brief exit, he returned for a two-song encore: “And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop” and “If I Had a Boat.” —Sharlene Chiu