Review: James Morrison at The OlympiaTweet
Review: James Morrison at The Olympia, 29 January, 2012.
Huge chameleon like curtains drape The Olympia stage as part of the stage set up for this, the start of James Morrison’s, ‘The Awakening’ tour. It’s been a long time waiting for many James Morrison fans as his latest release, has been three years in the making. In this time, James has worked on his songwriting prowess and wanted to rerelease himself as an artist, hence the title ‘The Awakening’. The venues occupants pant for air, as space will be considered a commodity for the night ahead, as James takes to the stage.
‘Beautiful Life’ kicks off proceedings with an extravagant soulful vibe that kicks this crowd into gear. Morrison is surrounded on stage with a whole host of musicians who are as polished as they are fashionable. The band look like something straight out of GQ magazine or the likes. Nonetheless, the sound is great as James Morrison gyrates around the stage clearly having a case of the Christy Moore sweats while still in his GQ leather coat.
‘Forever’ provides much of the same, just like the album itself, which sounds too familiar from song to song for my liking. ‘In My Dreams’ begins with James Morrison stating, “This song is for anyone who has ever lost someone special in their life”. This song is about the loss of James’ own father, a topic that spawned the theme and meaning behind many songs on the new album.
‘I Won’t Let You Go’ is the first song that the crowd seems to know as this was a single off the new album. With its big rousing chorus, this is the first time the crowd are in full voice. Apparently when James was writing this new album, he didn’t want to sit down with his writers (James still does not write songs alone) and write a “James Morrison sounding chorus”. If this was the case, he has failed in my view as this is the old James Morrison the crowd know and love.
The next song on the night was ‘Up’, originally performed and recorded with the now, UK and US chart topping, Jessie J. One of James’ backing vocalists accompanies him on the track, filling in for Jessie J as best she can. What really stood out for me during this song is that it really is a most unadventurous song. I thought maybe Jessie J and James Morrison, who clearly have no connection or chemistry during the singles video were to blame. However, on the night, the performance shows the song to lack lyrical inspiration while also just seeming like an attempt to copy the Nelly Furtado formula on previous single, ‘Broken Strings’.
‘Right By Your Side’, even though continuing this long straight run of songs from the new album, is a breath of fresh air as James strips back the production and performs with just two other band members. I say breath of fresh air because, I have always enjoyed the raspy nature to James’ voice, fully noticeable on his debut album; ‘Undiscovered’. This song serves as a showcase and reminder of this talent. That is of course until he leaps to the floor, in what seems like a most unnatural move, and begins to grind his pelvis towards the front row.
No sooner have the 13 year old girls in the front row, revived themselves to consciousness does ‘Broken Strings’ begin to play. This song, like before, still has the stripped back production that adds a nice intimate feeling to the lyrics. A pick up in tempo seemed to be coming but failed to materialize as the crowd showed their appreciation. ‘Person I Should Have Been’ continues this boring theme of being reborn, awoken and starting again that has filled his latest album.
‘Nothing Ever Hurt Like You’ reminds the crowd of what they like about James. More set list fillers come our way before ‘You Give Me Something’ plays. The crowd instantly reacts as every second person takes out their mobile phone to film the best moment of the gig. This now seems the easiest way to gauge fans enjoyment and attachment to certain songs.
He leaves the stage but returns moments later to choruses of ‘Ole Ole Ole’. He finishes his 3-song encore and the night with ‘Wonderful World’. A fitting and worthy way in which to end the show.
For me, it was a mixed night all round. I thought his choice of songs and set-list order was completely wrong. While only playing 4-5 songs from the first two albums was a bad decision as I heard many gig attendees proclaim, “I wish he played…..”, insert any number of songs I heard people bemoan the absence of. I think with this latest album, he has gone away from the more pop sounding chorus lines and lyrics and choosing a more soul sounding edge.
An enjoyable night was had and James’ musical talent and voice can never be debated, as he clearly is a great performer. This soul edge may come good but this set list does not show all sides to James Morrsion, just glimpses.