Back in September 2011 the duo, Joy Williams and John Paul White, from Californian & Alabama respectively, performed to a small crowd in The Sugar Club in Dublin. Six months later, with two Grammys under their belts, they are bringing their brand of American folk to a sold out adoring crowd in The Academy. Only a couple of weeks previously they had announced they were coming back to play the much bigger Olympia Theatre in October. So the crowd here on this night, know they are in for the last small show that these two performers will play in Ireland for a long time.
The atmosphere therefore is electric right from the off. It’s as if they were walking out onto an awards show stage to receive another prize. The fervor from the audience, is soon matched by the genuine chemistry and warmth that these two have in their performance. Armed with nothing more than two voices, one guitar (and the occasionally use of the keyboard) this is a very simple set up, but what comes through is the spark that these two have.
Performing the vast majority of their debut full length album Barton Hallow, they drop some of their much lauded, cover versions, including ‘Sour Times’ by Portishead and their own take of ‘Billie Jean’. Before they play a track of their own, ‘To Whom it May Concern’, Joy mentions that she is expecting her first child, and John Paul quickly jokes that it’s the only way that they could ever get some time off from touring and that, “Joy is now contractually obliged to have a baby every album cycle” (much to her protest.)
Their banter with the crowd continues with some entertaining between-song ribbing between the duo and the crowd about a UK tour, Twitter and ending the tour in Dublin. These two certainly know how to entertain and get a crowd on their side. How they will scale the amazing intimate feeling that they have with the crowd in The Academy, up to the bigger Olympia later in the year, will be fascinating, but with these kind of personalities and this kind of talent, it’s not hard to imagine them only getting bigger and bigger.
Photos also by James Goulden