Those who like Vance Joy, like him a lot. And after his concert on Friday night, which can only be described as one giant sing along, it’s not hard to see why.
He starts his set with “Fire and the Flood.” It’s loud. Not just concert loud, but there’s a certain feeling in the room. And then the flood lights hit you directly in the eyes. It’s at this point you start reassessing what you thought a Vance Joy concert would be like. I’ll admit I wasn’t a connoisseur, but I had listened to his EP & first studio album “Dream Your Life Away” in the lead up to this concert. If you, like me thought Vance Joy was a mellow guitar player, think again.
The crowd, that so far had been half engaged is now completely locked in and ready for the ride. And Amy Shark‘s words come mind – “my job is to warm the crowd up for Vance, and I take my job very seriously.” Which she made apparent, dancing onto the stage, and staying true to her word for the rest of her performance.
And suddenly it all makes sense. Like most musicians he wants an attentive crowd. But I think that’s partly due to the fact that he has so much to offer. And he leaves every ounce of it with the audience. If there’s one word I would use to describe this night, it would be energy. ENERGY. I don’t rememberer the last time I was at a concert with so much of it. Another pleasant surprise, was being introduced to Chappell Roan. The 19 year old from Missouri, who has a seductive sweetness about her. She admits to us, that it’s the last show of her first tour. You can tell that she & her guitar player Marty don’t want it to end, as he takes a picture with the audience. She has a timber to her voice reminiscent of Lana Del Rey. While her previous songs hit some nice notes that felt like a smooth rollercoaster, she moves to the keys and unleashes the quiet power of her voice for her cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Crystal Vision.” And Marty’s bass solo is the perfect compliment. By the end, you understand exactly why she’s opening for Vance Joy.
Oh yeah Vance… Introducing “From Afar”, he says it’s about “loving someone from a distance, knowing you will never be with them & being ok with it”, which you would expect to be a soul wrenching number with dramatic chords but instead ends up being loudly honest, with a dash of playful melancholy, and only a hint of frustration. Then there’s a trumpet. In fact all of his songs were accompanied by keys, drums, bass, and at times the trumpet and horn.
By the fourth song: it dawns on me why he is called Vance JOY. I’ve never seen a musician smile so much while performing. As you’ll see. It seems, after doing some research that’s not actually why he’s called Vance Joy. It was not a descriptive name ascribed to him. Rather the name of a character from a children’s book that he liked. But I still think there’s a reason he was drawn to that name, and it resonates well. Even he feels the atmosphere, “The vibe is very great, you know. Thank you”. No doubt it helps that seemingly everyone is singing along to every word.
As he introduces Red Eye (“a song about a man travelling across Australia to see the woman he loves and he has 5 hours to think about what he’s going to say to her”), I can’t help but notice there’s a lightness to him despite the significance of the subject matter. Then Red Eye wraps up with more flood lights and saxophone & trumpet blasts. Definitely a night of contrasts. The next two songs are new ones that he introduces to the crowd, “Take Your Time” & “Call If You Need Me” from his new album he is currently working on. While performing the former, which surprisingly, or I should say not surprisingly for this crowd, by the second verse they already picked up the chorus are singing along “take your time on me, because we ain’t got no place to be.”
Next on the list, “Call If You Need Me – It’s a love song, like a lot of the songs, I’ll admit” he playfully says. And then gives us some insight into his song writing: “I have a diary where I keep a lot of my thoughts. I had a riff I really liked …but no lyrics. So I had an image of a couple talking through the glass door of a shower. I love showering forever…” he openly shares. “I want to be good for the environment…But its like: get out of the shower!! Across the glass door.” We have access to so much water in Quebec that it’s easy to forget for many places around the world, including Australia, long showers are a real concern. Oh yeah, and that riff he liked…well the audience liked it too.
He then plays Snaggletooth from his 2013 EP. I can’t believe it’s been that long since we were first introduced to this affable Australian. Feels like it was yesterday when I first heard “Riptide” on the radio and thought to myself “who is this?! I like it!” What differs in this live performance from his EP, is you really hear the beauty & versatility of his voice, with the echo it produces in the room. His next new release “Like Gold”… reminds us that his music is contagious & charming. It tells us “Time to let go, It won’t let go of me, Time to cut the rope, if I wait until it feels right, I’ll be waiting my whole life “. This song starts off touching and builds so that by the end of it the power of his voice reaches through every crevice of your musical heart. I guess he’s happy about how that went, as he switches out his guitar to the stage hand, because he has another giant smile on his face. Then something completely unexpected happens, he starts singing “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie and the crowd erupts into song and dance. I’ll be honest, I never liked that song. In fact my only memories of it are changing the station as soon as I heard the first couple of notes of it on the radio… but somehow Vance Joy has gotten me on his side, and I’m now joining the crowd who are dancing their troubles away. The trumpet infusion made it really hard not to, I tell myself. That’s right Chloe, blame the trumpet.
He’s clearly entertained by the dancing crowd; the song turns into a brief medley with “Is it too late now to say sorry” and then switches back. If there was one song that brought the house down, this was it. I guess he felt it, and was pleased because he is once again smiling as he drinks water. The final song is “Lay It On Me” and from the first word this excited group is singing & clapping along.
For his encore he shows up with a ukulele. I’ll let you guess for what… scary dentists & the dark… He ends his encore with “Mess Is Mine”, again smiling the whole time. Did I say smiling? And energy. Did I say energy? And charming. Did I say charming? If the true test of an artist is his ability to perform live then Vance Joy passes with flying colours! This show far exceeded my expectations. I catch myself smiling the whole way home on the metro. Which in my Montreal can be risky, but I guess I don’t mind so much. Sometimes being contagious is a good thing.
Fire and the Flood
Take Your Time
Call If You Need Me
All Night Long / Sorry
Lay It on Me
Mess is mine
Review – Chloe Bol
Photos – Ashley MacPhee