Returning to Australia, James Vincent McMorrow has upgraded his digs; last time I saw him perform live, it was the venerable Corner Hotel, shitty viewing angles, background noise clatter, surly staff and all.
This time around, he played the Elizabeth Murdoch hall in the Melbourne Recital Centre, that carved wood and acoustically isolated grand parlour. The programming at Melbourne Recital Centre has improved dramatically since its wonky and uneven opening; more and more contemporary acts are performing there, the acoustics suiting musicians with a lot of light and shade and a distaste for over reliance on amplification.
McMorrow certainly depends on the amplification part, with his synth and sample-heavy set list, but his voice suits the impressive venue, that ethereal, plaintive, vulnerable falsetto. His set list, covering the highlights from his new and older recordings, as well as some covers, including his rendition of Higher Love that vaulted him into public awareness. With McMorrow on keys and guitar, his four-piece band did a sterling job of accompanying on drums, synth drums, bass, keys, samples and beat machines.
Some slightly bumbling Irish banter between sets is charming, albeit unintelligible at points, McMorrow’s accent lost somewhere in his beard. Special mention goes out to whomever designed and ran the lighting for the show: not something that I often think about (at least for a music event), but the lights did an incredible job of heightening the emotion and drama of the performance. From the terrible phone photos below, you can see some of the mesmerising colour and light of the show, serving to add an aura of mystery and power to a powerful voice.