Faced by a front row packed with teenagers waving posters emblazoned with such subtle requests as “MARRY ME, VANCE,” the 6′ 4″ Australian musician smiled sheepishly and thanked his audience. Vance Joy, born James Gabriel Keogh, remained charming and relaxed throughout his set, if slightly bashful about all the proposals. His voice, losing its tart Aussie twang when he sang, had his crowd’s rapt attention with each song’s sentimental preamble.
That said, each preamble had the kind of vanilla innocence that made you want to wrap him in a blanket and pat his head full of springy curls comfortingly. One about how as a small boy he’d sleep in his school uniform so as to save time the next morning could make even the most cynical listener doe-eyed.
Beginning with “Mess is Mine”, every song featured Keogh’s slightly nasally Passenger / Tallest Man on Earth-reminiscent voice and occasionally a ukulele entered the frame, looking adorably child-sized in the hands of a giant. It could be argued that a lot of his lyrics are too simplistic, with overdone themes of unrequited love, young love, lost love, but I’ve found that a few creatively written and arranged tracks like “Georgia” and “First Time” make up for the more derivative songs in his debut album, Dream Your Life Away (2014).
Smash hit “Riptide” was featured, but happily, not as his encore. Bizarrely, a mashup cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and OMI’s “Cheerleader” made an appearance (who knew those would blend well?), but Keogh ended the concert on the namesake song of his tour, “Fire and the Flood” — the romantic lullaby of a quiet man in love, sharing his intimate, settled calm as if we were a much smaller crowd.
Check out the rest of Vance Joy’s Fire and the Flood tour here.
Article and photos by Kavitha George