Review: James Vincent McMorrow – Manchester Cathedral

James-Vincent-McMorrow-at-007

In the cool dark shadows, nestled between the sandstone pillars, a sold out crowd eagerly gathers in the heart of Manchester Cathedral. After queuing in the constant drizzle of a miserable Friday night, the audience are ready for some Post-Tropical distraction.

James Vincent McMorrow is in town, to recreate the ethereal, lush sounds of his beat-driven new record. It seems an appropriate setting for his angelic voice and reflective lyrics, with the cavernous ceiling stretching high above the stage.

A large white moon hangs down behind the microphone as support act Denai Moore steps onto the stage. Her voice is supremely pure and haunting, and the songs are incredibly well crafted. The 19 year-old has been performing live for only a few years, but has already supported the likes of Tom Odell, Iron and Wine, and now adds James Vincent McMorrow to the list. She is a big fan – “I’d be buying a ticket and standing where you were if I wasn’t playing” – and her music sits well with his; hints of soul, folk, pop, all centered around the vocals.

Just before 9pm James and his band appear from the shadows, launching straight into The Lakes – one of the standout tracks on the new record. Seemingly a little nervous – this is the first night of the tour – the show is half way through before he loosens up, making jokes with the audience about his love for Kanye West and how he’s hit the big time, so now he can afford light changing pyramids for stage decoration.

As irreverent as it may seem to be drinking beer in a cathedral, the atmosphere is hauntingly reflective. The crowd hang on every swoop and dive of his voice, as he guides them through Post Tropical’s meandering rivers, the moon hit with rippling light patterns, pyramids glowing softly below.

Cavalier is exquisite, starting with an uncomplicated air of simplicity, building to a crescendo of thundering drums and crackling guitars. He effortlessly flits from guitar to piano in an instant, sometimes in the same song.

Earlier releases garner the warmest reception from the crowd, who seem to still be growing accustomed with the new record. It’s for the most part a relatively subdued evening, the audience listening to the music so intently, they are almost hypnotised by the smooth, sweet blend of sounds that the band members create together – the live arrangements represent the album perfectly.

The emphasis, however, must remain upon his incredible voice. It stretches way beyond the boundaries of impressive, and he controls it with precision. If this is the first live outing for the new songs, it is a great beginning – the choice of venue was a good one (although finding a viewing spot that’s not obstructed can be tricky) and when the evening finishes up with him stunning the audience with Outside Digging, you know things will only get better for this Irish singer-songwriter. There will be more than pyramids next time around…

Rachel Donnelly