by Maddie Casey
I arrived at the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday night anxious and excited. I've listened to Vance Joy's record at least a dozen times since its release and was curious to see how it translated into a live setting - a difficult task for many in the singer/songwriter genre. The quiet, thoughtful lyrics of songs like "Georgia" and "Best That I Can" bolstered my faith in the Australian-born James Keogh, but like your first time seeing any act live, I still felt unsure of what was to come. As the lights dimmed and the show began, the crowd erupted, masking the opening chords of "From Afar". The show moved incredibly fast from that point on, with Keogh and his band cutting into "Mess Is Mine" by track 5, "Georgia" by track 8, and "Riptide" by track 11.
And then it was over.
Just like that.
I watched the band walk off stage after their 60-minute set, and I couldn't quite place my emotions. The show had happened - it was over, no encore to be had - yet I'd barely been drawn into the emotions of the set. Keogh took little time to dally or talk with the crowd which certainly played a part in it's speediness, but that wasn’t quite it. There was something just...missing. I wasn't the only one who seemed to feel this way, as the entire room seemed a bit confused when the house music came on and the crew began disassembling the stage despite their cries for "one more song".
It took me until I got home to finally place it the exact reason for my feelings, but once I realized it, it was hard to ignore. The band had simply played the record. Maybe not in the same order, and maybe not the whole thing (a whopping two songs were skipped), but there was nothing that set apart this performance from me sitting down and listening to the album at home on my couch. Sure, Keogh's voice sounded spot on, and sure, the band sounded good, but live performances are meant to allow the musician to dig deeper, present another part of themselves to their fans to help grow the emotional bond one has with the music into a bond with the musician themselves. I left the show that night with as much of a connection to Vance Joy as I had arrived with...nothing had changed, and that felt disappointing.
Vance Joy sound good when they perform, there's no denying that. I respect the boundaries that come with being young musician, but what bothered me is that I've seen acts in this same situation work to truly connect with their fans in ways that Vance Joy did not. I hope that this skill of showmanship grows in the performer during his time with Ms. Swift this summer, but unless Vance Joy begins to present something unique to his live audience, I fear he will stay stuck in the lalaland of radio shows and opening slots for longer than he'd like. A talented musician and lyricist, Vance Joy has 2/3 of what it takes to truly "own" his shows - I hope that last 1/3 has kicked in when he comes back through Denver in July.