Dublin born indie folk singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow took to a Belfast stage on Saturday 28th January for the first time since 2011. After recently releasing his third album We Move James topped the Irish album chart and reached the UK top 40.
The Ulster Hall was the host for James for the evening as part of the Out To Lunch Festival, a favourite to the Belfast festival calendar. Supporting James for the evening was local singer/songwriter Ciaran Lavery.
Both surprisingly and shamefully, this was my first time in the Ulster Hall and usually one to love a leg sway at a gig, I welcomed the fully seated floor, being told as I saw that it was a sold-out gig.
Ciaran Lavery took to the stage alone with his guitar to open to the packed-out crowd with Careless Love. I’ve heard people talking many times about singers with strong vocals but it was nothing in comparison to the vocals of Ciaran. This was a voice that needed to be on a big platform, I would go as far as saying this was one of those distinctive voices that could capture Glastonbury crowd and honestly, how many can you say that about?
Whilst everyone around in Belfast City Centre was getting ready for a typical Saturday night out, possibly with Madonna on getting them in the mood, I had no complaints of sitting here and listening to the voice of Ciaran. Ciaran took time out from singing to speak to the crowd, saying that it was his first time playing in the venue. He shared with the crowd his worries from back stage, freaking out about playing the venue, even mentioning he got a new shirt and his hair cut for the occasion, which welcomed a good reaction from the crowd, instantly making him likeable. As he launched into Shame, I wondered what on earth he could have ever been nervous about with a voice like that and such an ease on stage.
Ending his set Ciaran ensured he thanked everyone and left the stage with a well deserved standing ovation.
Coming onto the stage to Roy Ayers Everybody Loves The Sunshine the crowd was more than ready for a night of listening to James. Opening with his latest album We Move the crowd were treated to I Lie Awake Every Night and Get Low before James took time out to speak with the crowd. After briefly introducing himself and his band he ended with “We’ll talk later because I’m sure you didn’t come here to listen to me talk”. James then delved into his earlier 2010 stuff with Breaking Hearts and Down the Burning Ropes.
Ensuring he didn’t forget about the act that opened so well for him, James gave the highest recognition to Ciaran Lavery. James spoke about Ciaran being an opening act for James for many years and gave the greatest thanks to the crowd for giving him the reaction and standing ovation, going on to say that it speaks a lot about the audience.
Throughout the set James also spoke about his time touring America, concluding it was good to be back here. His engagement with the audience was unfaultable and James continued to receive good reactions throughout his playing.
As James began playing One Thousand Times, the audience took to their feet, drinks were spilt over, arms were swung in the air and the crowd remembered it was a Saturday night. I bet the orchestras don’t see a reaction like that when they play the venue. Knowing that the set would be coming close to an end soon, a few shouts came from the back of “Wicked Game!”. To much dismay James must not have caught those shouts and the set was ended on Surreal.
The second standing ovation of the night was given as James finished up and left the stage. Not to leave the crowd disappointed, it wasn’t long before James was back on the stage and singing If I Had a Boat followed by Cavalier.
Once again, the audience were keen to get to their feet for James and end the night on yet another standing ovation. Three standing ovations throughout the night that were well deserved for two Irish singer/songwriters with equally impeccable talent.
Scroll through our photo gallery, by Chris McGuigan, below: