Upon entering the Pepper Canister Church you are immediately engulfed in an eerie silence as the normal banter and clanging of glasses which fills a music venue is unnervingly missing from the atmosphere. It has been replaced by hushed tones which reverberate around the church, as people sit solemnly waiting for James Vincent McMorrow’s entrance. The resolutely reverent and reflective mood which fills the church is the perfect setting for tonight’s stripped down acoustic show; which is a homecoming of sorts for McMorrow who has been touring in the US and UK for the past month. The two sold out gigs in the Pepper Canister and the upcoming Olympia gigs are testament to his growing stature in Ireland and abroad, which makes tonights intimate show a rare treat.
Fittingly, as the diminishing light filters through the stained glass window, McMorrow enters the church altar (his fourth this year), and launches straight into a handful of mesmerising tracks from his album Early In the Morning. Gems like ‘Down the Burning Ropes’, ‘Sparrow and the Wolf’, ‘We Don’t Eat’ and ‘From the Woods’ are belted out with jaw dropping gusto. The intensity of his lyrics draws you into a trance which eliminates the surroundings. Consequently, the solitary profile of McMorrow on stage, illuminated only by a stream of coloured lights, adds a haunting dimension to tonight’s proceedings which presents a perfect canvas for his performance.
Throughout the set McMorrow moves with ease from slow, soulful, emotive, hushed tones to ceiling grazing falsetto mode which leaves the audience in awed silence. Thankfully he manages to breaks up the building intensity of his performance with his giddily banter, leaving the audience in a transient mix of amusement and excited anticipation.
As the gig draws to an end McMorrow and three of his band members descends to the church floor and gives us a stirring rendition of ‘If I Had a Boat’. The Choice nominee musician’s vocals are complemented beautifully by the three part harmony and it is a fitting end to a hypnotic night.