Having only played Manchester last September we were surprised and delighted when tonight’s show was announced. With the packed out evening at Band On The Wall still fresh in our minds, as well as rose petals from it still pressed between the pages of a hefty cook book at home, Kevin Morby has set his bar rather high with us. And why shouldn’t he?
Opening with the title track from 2022’s This Is A Photograph instantly transforms the hall from a chatting or scrolling set of scattered strangers into a foot stomping, whoop-wooing, singalong-ing gang of folk equally prepared for a barnstorm or a storytelling around a campfire.
It is between those two ideas that we so often find Kevin Morby. His ability to mingle spirited and energetic anthems with introspective and intelligent ballads is second to none. The consistency in his ability conjure vivid stories through the depth and sincerity of his lyrics, carried by a soulful voice and impeccable musicianship has often left us astounded, tonight is no different. When mentioning impeccable musicianship we’d be remiss for not clarifying that this includes his wonderful live band.
As with his last gig it is a member of his own touring band that provides support on the night, with Macie Stewart taking the step from side-stage to spotlight to showcase her debut solo record, Mouth Full of Glass, just as Liam Kazar did last time out. It’s a subtle and smart way to stamp home the family, communal feel of the evening and a great platform on which his friends and band members can make the most of.
Pulling mainly from his last album the crowd engage enthusiastically with renditions of Rock Bottom, Stop Before I Cry, Five Easy Pieces and Bittersweet, TN, but it is with some of this older fan favourites that we see the biggest reactions of the night. City Music still sounds as exciting the first time anyone heard it in 2017, and 2013’s Harlem River from his debut album of the same title is still going strong enough to close the night at the end of the encore.
His most recent release, More Photographs (A Continuum), somewhat of a companion piece to its predecessor, is featured as This Is A Photograph Part II closes the main set with only the tiniest bit of confusion from a few in attendance who “could have sworn he opened with this”.
Experiencing Kevin Morby’s music is a privilege, no matter the medium you choose. But to witness it come alive like tonight at New Century Hall is a joyful experience. With his suede fringe jacket (where can I buy one?!) swaying in the spotlight, he delivers a setlist that spans his discography which is now ten years deep. With music that has the power to transport listeners to different periods of their lives, evoking a range of emotions and memories, each song becomes a chapter in a larger narrative, one that we all share together. It’s no surprise that tonight’s show is part of his biggest UK tour yet, a testament to his growing popularity and the undeniable connection he continues to build with his audience.
More Morby please.
Photo Gallery by Alex Cropper