REVIEW: James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow has mastered genre fluidity. Yes, I may have just coined the term genre fluid, but let me explain.

Last week I attended McMorrow’s concert at The UC Theatre in Berkeley, California, a new avant-garde venue with three open floors (and open bars) enclosed with brilliant chandeliers and a polka dotted ceiling.

Allan Rayman opened the show with an eerie, hypnotic spotlight. Allan’s raspy, silvery voice and signature laughter adds a certain, complexity to his music. Between the intense guitar riffs and crazed gestures, the cloaked voice sent shivers down my spine. But, whether it was out of sheer talent or fear, is still uncertain.

The UC Theatre, Berkeley, California.

The UC Theatre, Berkeley, California.

James lightened the mood and the stage with hues of yellow and orange. He opened with “Red Dust” from his second album, Post Tropical, which coalesces an effervescent falsetto, synthetic drums, and a lingering piano. When he echoed, “sometimes my hands they don’t feel like my own// I need someone to love someone to hold,” I fell in love. James’s voice proved to be just as, if not more, impeccable than it is recorded. His voice was strong, full, authentic and harmonized beautifully with his two female back ups. His next set, “Down the Burning Ropes” from his first album Early in The Morning, carried darker tones grounded on banjo strings and tambourines. In contrast, his following set “Get Low” from his most recent album We Move, featured a smooth electric guitar and subdued beats–a sound that some would classify as R&B.

James performing "Higher Love" at The UC Theatre.

James performing "Higher Love" at The UC Theatre.

But James Vincent McMorrow is a music artist who surpasses any kind of classification, hence, genre fluidity. Throughout his concert, James played songs from all three of his albums, each with differing, distinctive musical qualities. And still, the flow from one song to another was sublime. Somewhere between folk, electronic, and R&B, James retains a sense of originality. His iridescent yet soulful voice carries his introspective lyrics, giving James an indefinable style, but style nonetheless. 

Listen to James Vincent McMorrow.

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