I’m sure you’ve all heard those radio competitions to win tickets “for an exclusive intimate live show with…” but like me, you probably never thought you’d actually get to one. Well tonight, for me and few hundred others, we got to witness one such evening courtesy of James Morrison. The venue is Wilton’s Music Hall, one of London’s oldest original music halls, beautifully restored but with a capacity of only 300.
Given this is one of his first live performances in 3 years, I’m sure he could have launched the new album Higher Than Here at The O2 or a similarly sized super-venue, so this is an interesting choice. However, as soon as he runs on stage, high-fiving the front row, you got the impression this was going to be a special night and I’m sure nobody came away disappointed.
The set opens with the energy filled Under The Influence from his first album Undiscovered, before flowing straight into two more older numbers in Nothing Ever Hurt Like You and the poppier I Won’t Let You Go. They’re a perfect start to set the mood and get the crowd moving, but for me it’s the introduction of the newer songs that really raise the evening. Clearly enjoying being back on stage with this new material, James really rips into these songs with standouts for me being Heaven To A Fool and later on in the set, the really different Demons, complete with a looped backing track.
Underpinning all of this is James’s truly amazing rasping soul filled voice, which is pretty effortless in its delivery and although he has a full band, and a group of 3 backing singers, they’re just there to add the layers. Yes of course there’s time for some great sing-along’s, in particular Broken Strings (“there’s been a lot of girls practicing that one” he jokes after) and some slower paced songs in the middle. But ultimately this is a seamless blend of old and new with some great modern soul songs sung from the heart.
The main set closer, the more rocky Call The Police, tees everything up nicely for the encore involving You Give Me Something and the first single from the new album, the gospel influenced Higher Than Here which sends everyone off with a warm contentment that they really were part of that special intimate show.
There may be a bunch of new pretenders trying to muscle in to the soul-pop genre at the moment. But all I can say is watch out Sam Smith and John Newman, James Morrison is full of new songs and energy, and he’s definitely back.!
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Photography & Live Review by Andy Sampson.
Andy has his own great site here: SoundRitual