There are not many places better than Beacon Theatre to catch a show. First of all, there is not a bad seat in the house, second it has seats, which is a huge plus compared to most of the venues where I catch my shows that are entirely standing room only. So, when I sat down in my comfortable orchestra seat, expecting a long comfortable show, I could not have been more surprised when Vance Joy had me on my feet within seconds of his first song.
The night began with singer/songwriter Jamie Lawson taking the stage all by his lonesome. While he was undoubtedly talented I’ve had an issue with the British singer/songwriter sound these days as they all tend to sound the same. Jamie, Ed Sheeran, James Bay, while they are all extremely talented singers and musicians, they tend to make very similar music. That complaint aside, Lawson put together an entertaining set while the crowd began rolling in.
By the time the second act took the stage the theatre was almost full. Portland’s own Blind Pilot took the stage opening with one of their biggest hits, “Half Moon.” I actually didn’t have any idea they were on the bill for the night so their introduction came as an extremely pleasant surprise and the 45 minute set that followed was extremely enjoyable. The group sang with remarkably tight harmonies and a unique swath of instruments including everything from banjos to a xylophone. ‘
Once Blind Pilot left the stage we all knew it was time, and the main event was only minutes away. After only a few minutes the house lights went down and it was time to begin. The audience sat with anticipation as the band played and the one and only Vance Joy himself strutted confidently on to the stage acoustic guitar in hand and kicked off with the hit “Mess Is Mine.” That particular song happens to be my favorite, so opening up with it got me very excited very quickly, and the night did not show any signs of slowing down from there.
Admittedly I went into this show with measured expectations, Vance Joy’s sound is somewhat unique and his singing style is characterized by a lot of high pitched howling, not something that should come easy to anyone. However, it became apparent right away that this was not just a studio act. Vance Joy and his band have completely perfected their sound, which is key to putting on a great show. Another surprising aspect of the concert was the demographic make up of the audience. First of all the sheer number of teenage girls there was daunting and constituted the vast (and very loud) majority of those in attendance. But besides that as a person in his early twenties, I felt like people in my age group were the minority, there were tons of young married couples, even older folks were in attendance. Usually that sort of age ratio is indicative of a large commercially successful group, which I guess I underestimated.
Vance peppered his songs with long anecdotes about past romances or empty open mic nights, which kept the audience entertained and excited about each coming number. The man clearly had a hold on the crowd, we were all thoroughly engrossed with whatever was going on on the stage and this lead to a show that went entirely too quickly. The setlist contained most of the songs on his album with “First Time” being the only notable exception, as it is one of my favorites. No complaints though because the one cover that he played happened to be “You Can Call Me Al” which readers of this blog know I am a total sucker for. Not only that but during one of the choruses he mixed in Omi’s “Cheerleader,” which is a song that everybody enjoys whether they admit it or not.
Really this whole post can be boiled down to a very simple point. If given the opportunity, you absolutely have to see Vance Joy live. Pleasantly surprised does not go nearly far enough into how happy you will be after doing so. The man played an hour of feel good music that was could get you on your feet or relax you in your seat. It was a totally positive experience and one I plan on getting back to as soon as I can.
For some added fun, here is Vance performing “Georgie” live in studio.