James Morrison- The Awakening World Tour 2012 

Friday 10th February 2012

HMV Apollo, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom 

Recently in the UK there has been a surge of male solo artists with acoustic guitars, catchy songs and adoring fans (thanks to the magnitude of social networking and various forms of media). These guys are selling out venues up and down the country (Ben Howard sold out his first UK tour and announced another soon after and Ed Sheeran’s October 2012 tour sold out and included five nights at the HMV Apollo). Therefore, it is no surprise that they are being nominated for Brit awards and asked to headline festivals. However, the male solo artist was around way before and some have returned to the open arms of fans old and young alike.

One who really made an impact in 2006 with his first debut studio album ‘Undiscovered’ is James Morrison. This former busker is known for his soulful voice and has been compared to the likes of Stevie Wonder.

So after a 12-month hiatus due to a family bereavement he has returned with his third album ‘The Awakening’ which contains 13 well-crafted tracks, filled with emotion and completed with Morrison’s striking voice. As soon as it was released in September 2011, ‘The Awakening’ had entered the charts at number one, been certified platinum, loved by radio and  would stay at the top album spot for 2 more weeks.

The cold air travelled through the queues of ticket holders who as they waited swapped stories about work and how difficult it was to obtain tickets to tonight’s performance by the 2012 Brit-nominated Male Solo Artist. Now I feel that the venue deserves a mention as it housed  thousands of performances from Katie Melua, Steely Dan, Heart, Alice Cooper and the legend James Brown to name a few. The Apollo, having realised how cold it was, served hot tea and coffee (which was very welcome!) alongside packaged sandwiches, muffins and cookies to the frozen music spectators. Furthermore, when I was purchasing merchandise the staff had been very polite which is always good to see.

This gig was the second London date of his 32-date of his world tour which saw him perform in Ireland (Belfast & Dublin) and the rest of the UK as well as five German dates and visits to various European capital cities and towns (Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Madrid ect).  However, he was not alone and brought along a 10-piece band and 11-person crew to help entertain the globe once again.

Opening with the Awakening’s ‘Beautiful Life’, Morrison grinned at the animated audience and sang with such passion whilst white Chinese lanterns illuminated the stage. “These are the best f***ing London shows we’ve (himself and the band) have ever done!” he shouts.

The hit single ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ had everyone singing along together as soon as he sang the opening line: ‘when it’s black, take a little time to hold yourself…’ This act of group singing shows two things about the music industry. Firstly, a well-written song can be remembered forever and secondly, the power of the radio as (I don’t mean to quote the Capital FM advert), ‘without the radio, a hit would not be a hit.’

The song ‘Say Something Now’ (about people who bottle up their emotions) highlighted the vocal talents of backing singers Beverly Brown and Sarah Jane Skeete, while ‘Slave to the Music’ included a rhythmic beat by drummer Neal Wilkinson and funky bass line by Matt Round.  Guitarist Matt White rocked out on ‘Nothing Ever Hurt like you’ and shifted to Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Im A Man’ with such precision and ease.

The second single from the ‘Awakening’, ‘Up’ features the singer Jessie J and was received well by  both James’s and Jessie’s fans. But, her role was to be filled by Sarah Jane Skeete, one of the backing vocalists, and her voice travelled all around as the crowd replied with raucous applause.

Audience vocal participation resumed with an acoustic version of ‘Broken Strings’, taken from his second studio album ‘Songs for you, Truths for Me’, an album which I felt was quite underrated when it was released in 2009. Richard ‘Rich’ Cardwell on keyboards blended well with Morrison’s guitar.

Throughout he opened up to the audience about the reasons for his songs such as ‘In My Dreams’ which Morrison said was ‘for anyone who lost someone close to them’ a feeling which he sadly knows all too well. ‘One Life’, he explained was written about his daughter and he changed its title that evening to ‘Baby Girl’ and everyone did the replying oos and ahhs. He also briefly discussed his teenage years, “The first ever concert I had ever been to was when I was 14, and it was Manfred Mann and it was free. It was so cool.”

Closing the show with one of his 2006 ‘Undiscovered’ tracks ‘Wonderful World’, the audience remembered that this song was one of his and began dancing and waving their arms after enjoying a collection of beautiful music and lyrics.

James Morrison has the material, he has the voice, he has the remarkable band and crew who are supportive and all part of one big family, and he definitely has the emotion needed to write the heart-wrenching songs which are adored by millions around the world. It is always difficult to choose a set list when everyone has a different ‘favourite’, which is why he didn’t play the 2009 singles ‘You Make It Real’ and ‘Please Don’t Stop the Rain.’ That aside, he does know how to put on a show and everyone is grateful that he has returned to do what he does best.

By Glenn Sargeant