Elizabeth Taylor once said that success was the best deodorant of all. If we can believe Queen Liz, then James Vincent McMorrow must be smelling pretty good right now because here we are in the Olympia for the second night the Dubliner has sold out the venue.
Flashback to 2010 and James headlined Whelan’s, a gig the man himself heralded as a sign he was really hitting the big time. How wrong was he. So, what guide to making it and breaking it in the music industry did James, for all appearances an unassuming, if not painfully humble, singer-songwriter read to get to this point? Well, in the past 12 months two important things happened: Early In The Morning was released abroad and – what a shocker – people started buying it, listening to it and spreading the word at home too.
Back to the present and no one seems more surprised by McMorrow’s achievement than the musician himself, repeatedly telling the crowd how the Olympia has always been a dream venue to play and that he thought they wouldn’t sell 20 tickets.While the internet is the major player in making and breaking acts these days, The success of McMorrow, largely on the back of traditional gigging and grafting, including extra special shows at the Pepper Canister Church earlier this year, proves that the old way still works sometimes.
So here we are at the Olympia on a wet and wild October night and, sorry James but you were wrong: there’s more than 20 heads gathered to see you. A lot more. There’s something eerily formal about tonight’s proceedings – from The Shining-esque corridors of the venue to the fact the bar gets locked down the second the performance starts and then there’s the politely-timed applause (one person gives a piercing whistle and gets a unanimous, disapproving look). As the show gets under way, apart from two girls who talked the entire duration of the show, you could hear someone cough in Phoenix Park if you really tried and the sea of silent, seated bodies are visibly enthralled.
An hour and a half later (pretty good considering he’s flogging just one album) and we’ve been treated to solo renditions, songs backed up by a bursting-with-obvious-talent six-piece and a cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’. Oh yes. But the highlight was always going to be a final, triumphant, I’m-pouring-my-blood-and-guts-into-this version of ‘If I Had A Boat’. Maybe this gig won’t go down in the history of the Dublin music scene as legendary but, in terms of James Vincent McMorrow’s ascent up the musical ladder, we, the assembled, can definitely point and laugh at those who missed out.
More importantly, are we any wiser as to the secrets of James Vincent McMorrow’s “overnight” success? Not really. It could be any number of things he revealed onstage tonight: the band’s pre-gig jig to ‘Love is a Battlefield’, maybe it’s the nonchalant knocking back of wine between songs, maybe it’s having a guitar player who can ape Mick Jagger to superb effect. Who knows? Or maybe, and this could be a wild guess, just maybe it’s because he has such beautiful, perfectly crafted songs?
Photos: Sara Devine.