James Morrison did a great job in filling The Forum Theatre given his most recent album barely garnered a mention down under when it was released last year.
It goes to show if you release a critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album then fans will still quietly buy your subsequent releases and fork out their hard-earned money for concert tickets even if your last single isn’t being spun by local radios.
The English native was well supported by Ashleigh Mannix from Canberra and the distinctive Gin Wigmore from neighbourly New Zealand. The crowds (strangely) arrived early and the venue was basically full by half-way through Mannix’s enthusiastic and thoroughly enjoyable set.
Wigmore’s set proved why she is thoroughly respected throughout the industry in Australia, her native New Zealand, and internationally. Her performance, from a strictly musical point of view could not be faulted as she sang song after song with impeccable grace and poise.
Unfortunate then that the class Wigmore oozed during her performance was let-down by her abrasive nature nature between songs, punctuated by a slew of poorly chosen expletives, compromising an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable and memorable opening set.
Thankfully there wasn’t a long delay in-between Gin’s set and the man who’s act everyone had come to see. The lights were lowered and Morrison’s band walked onstage and started to play. With each passing bar you could feel the immense anticipation and excitement growing in the auditorium.
Before too long, Morrison himself bounded onstage and he was simply beaming. Sometimes artists playing in far away countries simply go through the motions, Morrison however, could certainly not be accused of being one of those artists based on tonight’s performance.
He played plenty of songs from his new album, none more touching than ‘In My Dreams’ a song he dedicated to his late father, whose death of alcoholism in 2010 influenced last year’s The Awakening.
Even though he dedicated the clearly emotional song to his father, he was still upbeat when introducing the song, saying it was for anyone who had lost someone, no matter who, and the feeling around the room reflected exactly what he’d said during the stunning performance.
A feeling of optimism and everyone having a good time was a constant theme of the evening with brilliantly played songs, courtesy of Morrison, his very talented band, and his great sense of humour.
This was never more evident than when he asked the audience half-way through the gig if anyone was expecting a guy with a trumpet. Although you got the feeling he does it at every gig, there was no sense of it being a forced joke.
Another new song, ‘Say Something Now’ was about coming home, and the awkwardness of thinking everyone will be really excited to see you, but when in fact, in Morrison’s words, “no one gives a shit.”
His laid back yet excited nature on stage was simply a joy to watch. The women in the crowd absolutely adored him, as some kind of cult sex symbol, something he neither embraced or deflected.
His early hits unsurprisingly got the biggest reaction of the evening, including ‘Wonderful World’ which was a particular highlight and his 2006 breakthrough hit ‘You Give Me Something’ for an encore.
The two duets of his three albums, ‘Broken Strings’ featuring Nelly Furtado off his sophomore effort and ‘Up’ which usually includes the UK’s current ‘it girl’ Jessie J, were also appreciated by the crowd. His back up singers more than aptly filling in for the big name stars that appear on the recorded versions.
When seeing an artist whose songs are of a somewhat sombre nature, it is always interesting to see whether they can captivate the crowd. Morrison did this simply with his unassuming and charming nature – his flawless and well-paced set didn’t hurt either.