November 18, 2016 by Ben Eastman
To get my mind off of the election results, I went to see James Vincent McMorrow and Dan Mangan play at Union Transfer on Nov. 10.
Mangan was the opener, and as he very nonchalantly walked up to the microphone, he thanked the audience for arriving early enough to see him. He just had his acoustic guitar with no backing band, giving his set a casual feel.
Mangan played a number of tunes, ranging from upbeat to more somber. His sound was somewhat similar in tone to Mumford & Sons, with an emphasis on poetic lyricism.
Mangan is from Vancouver, and joked that we’d all move up and become his neighbors after this election. He spoke on meeting his wife and sneaking into the U.S. 10 years ago to go on his first tour.
He ended his set with two more optimistic songs, before thanking the crowd and McMorrow for having him on tour. While simple, this was one of the more unique opening sets I’ve seen.
In contrast, McMorrow’s team set up a large array of lights along the back of the stage, as well as elaborate instrument stands.
Followed by his five person band, McMorrow came to the center of the stage, wearing a very nice hat. It was like a mix of a fedora with a bowler hat and a sombrero. I don’t know that it was, but it was cool. Good hat, McMorrow!
But McMorrow had more to offer than just his hat. The Irish singer-songwriter was incredibly talented.
His voice is unreal, a falsetto cry that can reach notes most musicians can only dream of. His ghostly voice drifts in between the keys he played as well as the three separate guitars he riffed during the 90-minute concert.
McMorrow is three albums deep into his career. While his first two contained a more sparse, folky sound, McMorrow went with a more R&B-infused sound with his latest album, “We Move.”
With the help of Nineteen85, who produces for Drake, McMorrow went with a more upbeat, synth- and percussion-heavy move to craft one of the most dynamic albums of the year.
With an emphasis on his newer songs, McMorrow blended all three of his albums into his set. He moved through older hits like “Higher Love” and “Red Dust,” seamlessly transitioning to newer classics like “Rising Water” and “Get Low.”
His band helped him out on some of the more lively songs, but a good portion of the show was McMorrow playing solo.
For the final song, “Surreal,” the band slowly played themselves off until only McMorrow was on stage, and he meekly thanked the crowd before leaving himself.