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James Vincent McMorrow
James Vincent McMorrow
12/01/2016

Review: James Vincent McMorrow at the Wonder Ballroom

By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // Visited Portland in support of new release

Irish artist James Vincent McMorrow came through Portland this week, playing the Wonder Ballroom on Sunday night in support of his new album "We Move".

McMorrow's broad talents were on full display and the mix was perfectly dialed in to highlight every piece from his amazing vocal display to the subtle harmony textures added by backup vocalists.

His vocal style isn't easily categorized. To my ears, it is a mixture of Ray LaMontagne and Alan Wilson, the Canned Heat guitarist who provided vocals for On the Road Again.

In addition to his considerable vocal talents, McMorrow is a terrific guitarist in his own right and he played more guitar during the evening than the keyboards set up in front of him on stage as he fronted a five-piece arrangement.

Highlights from the show included Breaking Hearts, One Thousand Times, Lost Angles, and his cover of Higher Love, which was simply magnificently performed.

McMorrow isn't easily placed into categories or genres. His music is a mixture of pop, lyrically driven folk, and beats that come from hip hop. On Sunday, he created a laid back atmosphere that seemed at times like it wanted to cross into the realm of a giant dance party, but never quite got there.

And that was the bittersweet portion of the evening for the crowd, which was larger than I would have expected on a rainy Sunday night. Although the all-ages crowd was attentive and appreciative, the physical space never quite matched the music.

The Wonder Ballroom is large and can be cavernous and sparse absent a driving show that generates movement in the crowd. McMorrow came with the goods, but a more intimate setting, perhaps seated, was needed to more properly match the music.

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