James Morrison @ The Leadmill
James Morrison returned to Sheffield last week, touring his comeback album, ‘Higher Than Here’.
But walking in to The Leadmill the atmosphere isn’t that of a middle-of-the-road pop concert. It’s that of an east London jazz club or intimate album launch; sound-tracked by the fabulous Eva Stone. She is effortless, entertaining between songs and supremely confident; lamenting her long career as a support act which will surely come to an end soon enough.
There is certainly an edge to the atmosphere; as is usual at a live music venue, people of all ages come, some as fans, some as partners, parents or friends of fans – all for the love of live music. This is no different. There are the obligatory, tour t-shirt wearing faithful, their partners and the odd person who you fear may be at the gig by accident.
It’s 9pm. The volume of the background music increases to cut through the crowd and announce the arrival of the main event. This is no X Factor, big orchestral build up aside. Ska anthem ‘Pressure Drop’ by Toots and the Maytals is an early indicator of the somewhat unexpected breadth of influences upon the music we’re about to enjoy.
Morrison bounds onto the stage along with his bandmates and backing singers, and begins to hammer away at his acoustic guitar, barely noticeable beneath the enormous output of his group. The sound is impressively polished whilst retaining the sound and feel of a live atmosphere. Morrison is ‘a total weirdo’ by his own admission and bounces around, engaging with the front row and marveling at his audience. He allows the opening bars of first song, ‘Under the influence’ to multiply; lapping up the love of the energetic crowd.
It is clear early on, that this is another example of the supreme musicianship which often goes under the radar in the sea of radio pop music. The band are perfect; bombastic where necessary but never out of control. They really give an extra dimension to the songs from early albums, ‘Undiscovered,’ ‘Songs For You, Truths For Me’ and ‘The Awakening.’ As well as this, songs from 2015’s rejuvenation record are met warmly, sans the usual chatter or exodus to the bar.
His voice is a distinctive one; and a somewhat acquired taste. However, considering the enormous success of his collaboration with a Nelly Furtado at her absolute peak, it would seem that most of us are over it. With this in mind, it’s difficult to express just how surprisingly fantastic this gig was. Everything about it was impressive and really got everyone on side, rooting for the night to be a success for the artist – even the dads, the boyfriends and me!