Show Review: Vance Joy At The Phoenix Concert Theatre

Vance Joy at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, Nov. 1 2014

By Yasmine El Sanyoura & Andrea Macanovic

There’s something so intimate about James Keogh’s music, and his concerts prove to be no different. The Australian singer-songwriter, performing under the moniker of Vance Joy, supplied Toronto with two back-to-back sold out shows this past weekend at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, closely following the release of his debut album Dream Your Life Away in September.

The concert kicked off with opening act Sam Cash, who had just flown in from LAX after being asked to perform only hours before. (The original opener, James Young, had announced that he was unable to make it.) Something about Cash and his performance — just him and his electric guitar, exchanged for an acoustic guitar for a single song — served as the perfect introduction to Vance Joy’s set. The intermission music only perpetuated this feeling through its throwback vibes, featuring tracks from the Jackson 5, ABBA, Elvis, the Police, and even OutKast.

Vance Joy’s set opened with “Emmylou,” a song off his earlier EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing, followed by “Red Eye” from the new record. After bringing out his ukulele for “Play with Fire,” then playing another off the new album, he shared how his song, “Georgia,” came to be: after struggling to find the right lyrics to pair with a riff he’d had for quite some time, everything came together on New Year’s Day. After some fiddling around with his guitar, he finally found the words that he’d spent so long looking for.

Keogh shared a similar story with regard to the writing process of another track, “My Kind of Man.” After being inspired by a Facebook post of his uncle’s, he put the exact words into a song, only to have his dad tell him that it sounded too familiar: the words were actually from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” For this intimate song the band left the stage, leaving behind just the artist, his guitar, and the audience.

Instigated by someone from the crowd yelling out, “I love your hair!” Keogh launched into a little speech about how nice that was and how it lifted his self-esteem. After a few other songs, the ukulele made a comeback for the hit “Riptide,” during which the crowd sang together at the top of their lungs as he stepped back and smiled, enjoying the moment. He then thanked the crowd and ended the night performing “Mess is Mine,” the second single from Dream Your Life Away.
The show proved to be a night well spent, with strangers dancing and singing along together, united by Vance Joy’s great music and infectious energy. Crowd members left feeling like they had just been part of a jam session, not just spectating but having direct involvement with the music. The setlist included songs from both his EP and his full-length album to accommodate new and old fans, resulting in a great show for everyone.

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