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James Vincent McMorrow @ Union Transfer.

April 8, 2014

jamesVincentMcMorrow (5 of 14)Text by Laura Fanciullacci. Images by Grace Dickinson.

As the audience gazed upon the intricately set up stage, scattered with illuminated, color-altering pyramids, patiently waiting for James Vincent McMorrow to appear, one would have never guessed that this show almost did not happen.

When the Irish singer-songwriter took the stage, he quickly explained that his drummer had to back out last minute because of a personal engagement, so a majority of the Union Transfer show was thrown together during the course of only one day.

Before anyone had time to digest such news, McMorrow delved straight into his first song and even devoted fans were still startled by his distinctive falsetto. But his impressive vocals aren’t the only musical talent he possesses. He played his own drums for “Red Dust” before Scott, McMorrow’s backline tech, substituted drumming duties for the remainder of the night.

For the beginning of the show, McMorrow selected the more mellow songs like “Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low” from his highly-acclaimed debut album, Early in the Morning (2011). That vibe ended when the second half of “Down the Burning Ropes” turned more rock with strong percussion and guitar and returned again when he performed “This Old Dark Machine.” The classic soulfulness mixed with the surprising energetic spouts gave the show decent variation.

After performing a pleasant rendition of “We Don’t Eat,” McMorrow quietly said how that performance was “so nerve-wracking” because of the few changes they had to make that day. This vulnerability was quite refreshing, as musicians rarely provide such an honest look into their chaotic touring world.

Before playing “Gold,” McMorrow warned, “This is going to be the opposite of what the song is supposed to be without the drums.”

The band then provided a more delicate version, a different take on the song, something that audiences usually only hope for.

No disclaimers were necessary. Any of the changes that were made that night were very well-received and flawlessly executed. The humble singer made sure to give thanks to his loyal crew and a welcoming audience.

“I’m very lucky to have these people in my life,” McMorrow said. “We had to rebuild the set in a day. It’s a horrifying thing but these guys nailed it. It’s fun. It reminds me why I’m a musician.”

He unraveled a humorous tale of how, from a logistical standpoint, everything has gone wrong on this 2014 tour: Strep throat. Canceling a show. Broken-down tour bus. Shady bus driver. Driving the tour bus themselves. The terrifying drive across the Rocky Mountains. No sleep. Losing a drummer.

There may be lots of road-bumps, but the show must go on.

Later in the set, McMorrow introduced some of his newer material from his sophomore effort, Post Tropical (2014), introducing songs like the soulful “Glacier,” “All Points,” and “Look Out.” Many of the tracks on the new album touch on the notes in his previous one – the same emotional, confessional and soulful tones are still very present. Though, instead of relying heavily on the acoustic guitar, Post Tropical has added in more piano, synth, drums, and even electronic elements, making it a daring and exciting collection.

McMorrow did not forget to include his hit cover of “Higher Love,” which he played for one of his last songs. Despite any of the mishaps that might have happened along the way, the unreal high notes reminded everyone that the singer’s voice alone could carry any show.

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