James Morrison at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
As with many things (MySpace, Busted, The X Factor), it’s not an altogether pleasant surprise to discover that James Morrison’s career has survived the 2000s – although only barely. Despite changing his look and his tone, it’s clear that Morrison can’t afford to hold back on the crowd-pleasers, opening with Under the Influence and with You Give Me Something as his penultimate track, both from his 2006 debut and clearly designed to satisfy the overwhelming number of mums in the audience. As disparaging as he is about his earlier haircuts, it quickly becomes clear that material from his new album, Higher than Here, is gaining far less traction than his older work. With his recent reinvention, Morrison has taken a turn into the unknown and it doesn’t seem to be paying off.
However, trying to regain the favour of a world that has moved on is the least of James Morrison’s issues. A more pressing concern is his complete lack of charisma or stage presence, alternately sounding like a smoker outside a sleazy pub and dancing like a hunchback having a seizure. Gone is the charm that made him so lovable ten years ago; now he swears and grumbles his way across the stage with very little enthusiasm, rocking out to guitar solos he isn’t even playing. It’s clear that he no longer has the same passion for his job and that lack of enthusiasm is obvious during his lacklustre performances of Demons and Something Right. The crowd just want to hear the hits and Morrison does nothing to win them over.
That’s not to say that this set is entirely without merit. Though Morrison has opted for a dourer and more grown-up tone with his newest album, he still manages to bring the funk on tracks such as Slave to the Music and his old faithful, Wonderful World. These moments of levity are genuinely entertaining. The keyboards really go for it when they get a chance to shine, bringing a jazzier dimension to the otherwise stolid set list. On the whole, however, this seems like the sound Morrison is trying to leave behind, without realising that this is what made him so endearing in the first place.
Photos: Erol Birsen
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Watch the video for Demons here: