- James Vincent McMorrow at Bowery Ballroom (photo by Kevin McGann)
Around 2016 I started getting back into vinyl and one of the first new albums I picked up at the time was James Vincent McMorrow’s We Move. A mix of pop, soul, R&B and 80’s sounds, it was unlike anything else in my collection at that time. But from the moment I heard that falsetto I was pretty much hooked and worked my way back through his earlier albums, Post Tropical and Early in the Morning.
In mid-2017 I first had the idea to sneak a camera into a gig and James’ Brooklyn Steel show was one of my first attempts. My pics were a total fail but the show was anything but—a full band, lights, video and that beautiful voice. I didn’t know that would be the first and last time I would see him until this year thanks to that period we shall not speak of. During that time everyone’s tours were canceled, and new albums were either shelved or went largely ignored without live shows to promote them, and McMorrow’s were no exception.
Fortunately, that’s the past and he’s hit the road with two albums worth of new music including songs from his just released album, The Less I Knew. Unlike the last tour I had seen, this was a stripped-down solo gig with James front and center. No band, no stage setup other that a few guitars and keyboard on stage. As he would explain, this was a back to basics where he could reconnect with both his music and his audience. It also meant a chance to tell the stories behind the songs, none more touching than “Steven.” Highlights included “We Don’t Eat,” “Cavalier,” “Get Low,” new song “Hurricane,” and the cover that took a life of its own—Steve Windwood’s “Higher Love.” At times funny, at other times emotional, this was a show that showed the broad range of music and emotions that James brings to his craft.
Opening the night was the excellent Izzy Heltai. I wasn’t familiar before the show, but I’ll definitely be following his career going forward. Like McMorrow, Heltai also has a strong stage presence that’s at times funny, at other times reflective, but always appreciate of the love that was pouring over him from a very receptive crowd. Fans of acoustic driven music and introspective lyrics should definitely check out his 2021 EP Day Plan (5 Songs Written 4 the End of the Word) and look for future live dates.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kevin McGann)
JAMES VINCENT Mc MORROW