To think that the day before he played Central Presbyterian Church at SXSW, James Vincent McMorrow had a showcase at Maggie Mae’s on Dirty Sixth.
“This is beautifully serene,” McMorrow said of his far more hallowed Thursday night digs. He then apologized in a vague upward direction for cursing in a house of worship (which, let’s be honest, comes with the territory with these downtown church shows), as well as for his D’Angelo “Black Messiah” shirt.
No apologies necessary. McMorrow, possessing a singular voice, brought the Central Presbyterian audience to its feet at the end of his emotionally gripping set. If his non-microphone-assisted rendition of “If I Had a Boat” didn’t deserve a standing ovation, nothing would. Have you heard of heart pangs? McMorrow was passing out eye pangs — that quivering you feel behind your eyes when you get the sense that tears are ready to walk out the door.
McMorrow’s piercing, full-bodied falsetto is sacred, far stronger and powerful than any man singing at an unnaturally high pitch should be able to conjure. It’s the kind of voice that, even if not paired with the Irish singer’s sensual lyrics, would overwhelm. But together, it’s impossible to stay merely whelmed: “Sometimes my hands they don’t feel like my own/I need someone to love, I need someone to hold.”
And that’s how you match up an artist with a performance space.