Ah, the unfortunate lot of the singer-songwriter. One minute, you release a debut album packed with deliciously plaintive, heart-on-sleeve moments; the next thing, everyone has you pegged for an out and out melancholic soul.
‘People expect me to be a bit sad, but I’m not really,’ observes James McMorrow from the stage of a packed-to-the-proverbial-rafters Whelan’s. He’s got that right; McMorrow’s music may be tinged with tenderness and gossamer-light flourishes of lamenting, yet if his on-stage banter is anything to go by, McMorrow is a light, affable soul. He may have the romantic repertoire and the Buckley-esque falsetto to make grown women sigh, but make no mistake; McMorrow boasts a charmingly rogueish glint in his eye.
Regardless, tonight is a big night for him; previously, he has played solo shows, sans band, to a less sizeable crowd. Apparently abetted by Mexico’s trouncing of France in the World Cup, McMorrow cuts a jubilant figure on stage. Yet at times, the Malahide singer appears nervy, perhaps slightly cowed; a situation no doubt exacerbated by the fact that some close pals have set up camp at front row centre. After two rehearsals, this is also McMorrow’s debut airing with a full size band. Amply able musicians the lot of them, yet suffice to say this is still very much a work in progress. In time, McMorrow’s backing singers will surely match – or complement – his own considerable vocal horsepower. And songs that sound this promising on record will no doubt find their sea legs on the live stage in time. But tonight, uncertainty looms and nerves seemingly reign.
That’s not to say that tonight’s show wasn’t a hell of a lot of fun. There’s much to like in the gently hypnotic sway of songs like -We Don’t Eat’ and -Down The Burning Ropes’. A nearby group of American girls audibly swoon to the opening strains of -And Of My Heart’ and -If I Had A Boat’. Covers of Joanna Newsom’s -81′ and Sun Kil Moon’s -Like The River’ bolster this very sublime set in the loveliest way possible (even though McMorrow is threatening to put the Newsom cover out to pasture after tonight. Oh, the humanity).
If anything, tonight’s show proves that, after putting in many hard yards first, McMorrow is currently enjoying a nicely impressive career trajectory. Bums are on seats; now it’s McMorrow’s job to prove that he’s no Bon Iver clone. A tenner says the next time he takes to the Whelan’s stage, it will be quite the lap of honour.
Photos: Alessio Michelini