Celtic Connections review: James Vincent McMorrow

AN OPENING set by Siobhan Wilson set the tone for an evening high on atmosphere and vocal quality.

City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald Macleod
City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald Macleod

James Vincent McMorrow

City Halls, Glasgow

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Star rating: * * *

The Scottish singer-songwriter has returned from Paris with a touch of Parisienne chanteuse about her, and she delivered a brace of bitter-sweet love songs, crowned by a beautifully fragile cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You.

When McMorrow took the stage, the volume cranked up. If his first, largely acoustic, album had him placed in “indie-folk”, his second, Post-Tropical, blasts that apart with a much bigger, electronic sound and howling, harmonising vocals.

McMorrow’s high tenor voice has range without sacrificing power. His songs speak of big, dramatic landscapes, performed on a set of light-filled pyramids with accompanying light show. On songs like Down the Burning Ropes and Glacier he begins softly and builds into a crash of sound.

Given the fact that he did five songs before he even said hello, one might wonder if the man isn’t taking himself a little too seriously, but when he did speak, he punctured this with self-deprecating humour. At its best, his new work is beautiful, brutal, surprising. The danger is that after an hour of it, it loses the element of surprise, and with that, a little of its power.

Seen on 28.01.14