Concert Review | Not Van nor Jim, the name is James Morrison

***** (5 stars out of 6); March 6 at Store Vega

When James Morrison first rose to critical acclaim in 2006, many must have wondered how a man of such talent had not been discovered earlier. When he played at a sold-out Store Vega last night, the crowd must have been flummoxed by what exactly they had just witnessed. At his best, the Rugby-born musician was as soulful a voice as any you're likely to hear and even at his worst, he was teetering on the edge of sheer musical brilliance.

Morrison stepped onto the scene along with a sizeable backing band and proceeded to quench the crowd's thirst with the prolific ‘Beautiful Life’, a well-placed opener that set the standard for the night. After a slowish start that entranced more than it entertained, signature track ‘I Won't Let You Go’ took the concert to a whole new level five songs in, as Morrison's hoarse yet soulful falsetto-inclined voice got the license to roam from low to high that it had been waiting for.

Fans and critics alike have hailed the lively singer's style as being reminiscent to Stevie Wonder, albeit infused with elements of confessional lyrical singer/songwriter traits, an alternating pattern that was consistent throughout last night's show.  

Fluctuating between emotive, if not borderline melancholic. numbers juxtaposed alongside more soul-crammed tunes, Morrison and co didn't take a misstep during their concert and seemed to be enjoying themselves more and more as time went by. An acoustic performance of ‘Right By Your Side’ was the highlight of it all, as Morrison's vocals thundered through Vega unimpaired by any instrumentation whatsoever, bar a few well-placed electric guitar strums.  This numbed the mood and created an overwhelming sense of subtlety that was promptly left short-lived by a crescendo of upbeat tunes towards the end, such as the well-known ‘You Give Me Something’ and ‘Wonderful World’, both of which topped the charts back in 2007 and did their bit to send the crowd home with smiles on their faces.

It is rare to see a musician that's graced with so much natural talent, rarer still to see one who is as genuinely humble about things as Morrison. Six years after being catapulted into the limelight, he's still the shy lad from the West Midlands whose hoarse voice stands apart from any of his contemporaries.