REVIEW: Vance Joy in Columbus, OH

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A fervent sold-out crowd seeks refuge from the biting cold in a warm and inviting A&R Music Bar in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Diverse in age but united in cause, they anxiously await a night of music from Atlantic recording artist Vance Joy who’s single, “Riptide'” has seen massive success in recent weeks. The intimate venue is an apt setting for the kumbaya-like singalongs that are to transpire this evening.

The show is opened by label-mate Jaymes McFarland who is better known by the stage moniker Jaymes Young. The Seattle native is accompanied by bass and drums, presenting bare bones versions of the otherwise synth-laden pop recordings from his debut, Dark Star. The stripped compositions are the perfect pairing for the acoustic stylings of Vance Joy and no doubt showcase his mastery on six strings.  McFarland himself dons a sunburst Stratocaster and projects a soulful croon with seemingly effortless control.

After a lengthy set change which seems to only build anticipation, there emerges the smiling visage of James Keogh, or Vance Joy.  Keogh possesses a charismatic charm; the kind that can captivate an audience even before the first chord is struck.  He’s met with overwhelming applause.

The calm and affable Aussie embodies a humble disposition one might not expect in an artist queued to share the stage on an arena tour with the Grammy Award winning Taylor Swift. He is quick to vocalize his appreciation for the crowd’s participation between songs while switching back and forth between an acoustic guitar and ukulele. The entirety of his debut full-length, Dream Your Life Away, is performed by the singer-songwriter with accompaniment from his band of bass, keys and percussion. It is not uncommon for his vocals to be overpowered by the voices of a zealous audience eager to back one of their favorite new artists.

The night culminates with deafening crowd participation on Keogh’s flagship single Riptide, satiating the sold-out Columbus crowd.

Vance Joy and Jaymes Young travel west to finish the tour in southern California later this month.  Keogh then heads back to Australia for a homeland stint before embarking on Taylor Swift’s U.S. tour.

BY ZACK GEMMELL