The evolution of James Vincent McMorrow continues at pace, two albums in and one about to drop he appears, and sounds, to have hit a new creative purple patch. The JVM of Early in the Morning, the troubadour incarnation, was slightly folksy before we saw him branching out into more expansive territory with the more experimental Post Tropical. Now, and based entirely on the new material debuted tonight, he has found a perfect balance and one, which we might suspect, where he was always headed. Gone are the plaid shirts and introverted demeanour, now we get a showman with some outright belters. The newer stuff tonight perfectly combines the contrasting tones of ‘We Don’t Eat’ and ‘Cavalier’. Still equal parts moody and uplifting, McMorrow knows how to craft a tune to grab you by the feels and astound you.
Although his band at times seemed to drift in terms of the quality of their chops, some of these songs were played live for the first time and a lack of tightness is utterly forgivable. For the older songs, “we’re taking five or six years, not like 14” there really should be no looseness at all. That said, for the vast majority of his set JVM gives us what we want and sets things up perfectly for the sonic transcendental bliss that is to follow.
The deep, resonant drone that makes up Sigir Rós‘ ramp-up music is kind of unsettling as their intricate light rig is assembled on stage. It doesn’t let up, it just kind of hums and unless you are distracted by something else it will just sit in your chest. It’s almost perfect that such a distraction appears in the form of a rainbow (Pride has no limits to it’s reach, clearly) beside the stage right before 9pm. Appearing behind a lighting rig the remaining three members of Sigur Rós start what proves to be a killer set. Full of highs and lows, dark and light, the other-worldly vocals from Jonsí feel as though he is inside your head crying to get out. You think you hear what he’s saying and can impose your own meaning to indecipherable Hopelandic yelps and the visuals fortify whatever ethereal musings you might drift into. This is riveting stuff! With only a few words between songs the band seems to shimmy between tones rather than songs, ‘Starálfur’ gives way to ‘Sæglópur’. ‘Ný Batterí’ subsides to make room for ‘E-Bow’. If you were that way inclined you could be as high as a kite and feel as though they are playing you through a story with no words.
The only downside of the night is that nearly everybody in the audience is being deprived of the full spectrum of the visuals. With no room for screens at the side of the stage there is a display hoisted up above the soundstage, out of view for pretty much everyone. It doesn’t detract from the gig in any meaningful way, it’s just a shame that most missed it. But as the night closes in and daylight evaporates we can fully appreciate the stage-craft in all of it’s glory. Rarely can a band find such symmetry with their stage visuals. The music, the lights, the made-up words, somehow it all bleeds into one.