By Sarah Gerrity
Dubliner James Vincent McMorrow took on an intimate and adoring audience Saturday night at a packed Lincoln Theater, bringing even more life into his soulful and serene music.
The performance was a journey of sorts, starting off with his mellower tracks, reminding us of his comparisons to Bon Iver, but growing into his livelier, more passionate songs — giving me the same fuzzy feelings I’d get at a Mumford & Sons or Of Monsters and Men show. By the end of the set, I was wishing Lincoln Theater’s seats had disappeared so I could blend into the crowd and be part of what would have been a great electro-acoustic dance party. In between songs, fans yelled out thank-yous and even an extra smitten “no but seriously, THANK YOU,” and McMorrow, who was rather quiet at first, seemed to come out of his shell, giving us hints of what it’s like to just be hanging out with him, well, and a serious crowd of admirers. On this particular night, he was incredibly grateful to have his band all in the same place (as well as his guitar tech) — and together, they all gave us a truly spectacular, heartfelt performance.
Something that’s always fascinated me has been how an artist transforms his music from an album into a live show — the way performers use lighting, atmosphere, and the flow of the set list to give you a completely different experience is truly incredible.
The stage was set with geometric triangle LED orbs that flashed and changed colors with the music, accompanied by a very large, white circular backdrop. The 3D geometric shapes affixed to the backdrop sometimes illuminated to the music (much like the orbs on the floor), but sometimes displayed ambient visualizations… or both. It was everything, really, and gave off the vibe that we were all in a warm, angular illustration of McMorrow performing amidst mountaintops in a lightning storm.
All in all, I was blown away. I went in expecting an experience more akin to both of his albums — serene, wintery and bucolic — but walked away with a warm glow. Six blocks from Lincoln Theater, I still heard people giddily debating which part of the show was their favorites, and betting (hoping) that the next time he’s in DC, he’ll be at 930 Club. I’ll be there.
Those who arrived in time for the opening act witnessed MOORS. Behind the moniker, MOORS is producer HH and emcee Keith Stanfield. Their performance brought me back to my own days growing up in LA — slower trip hop beats combined with Stanfield’s talented vocals pull together a raw visual of the societal and internal struggles that many youth in LA’s poorer communities can quickly identify with… something you’d hear on a hot and hazy day in East LA (or the Inland Empire, where he’s from).
The performance was set with minimal lighting — just one spotlight, which Stanfield occasionally paced or danced through, sometimes taking a seat in the solitary chair, front and center. Both artists were in all black; HH in the more hipster tie clip version of Stanfield’s untucked shirt and gold chain, representing two very different but equally creative scenes in Los Angeles.
Overall, the harrowing and poetic lyrics combined with Stanfield’s performance capture the experiences and psychological turmoil that comes with being an outlaw, a victim, and everything in between.