Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy burst onto the music scene in 2013 with his single Riptide. The song became a global smash hit and propelled his debut album Dream Your Life Away to over 2 million sales worldwide. Joy released his long-awaited second record, Nation Of Two, this spring, and last night he played the only UK show of his Nation Of Two World Tour at London’s legendary Alexandra Palace.
Joy kicked off his set with Call If You Need Me, from his latest album. Playing his acoustic guitar and silhouetted in white light, he commanded the stage from the off and brought more edge to his vocal compared to his show at Omeara last year. The crowd roared their approval as the lights came up to reveal his five-piece band, and the cheers only got louder when Joy hit the high notes towards the end of the song.
Throughout his performance Joy switched between songs from both his albums, as well as throwing in a playful, soulful mashup of Lionel Richie’s classic All Night Long and Justin Bieber’s Sorry. He kept the energy up throughout with songs like the rocky, anthemic Mess Is Mine, Fire And The Flood with its tropical beat and singalong chorus, and Wasted Time, which paired twangy guitars and stomping drums with vulnerable, optimistic lyrics. The crowd could be seen dancing along throughout and it was clear that they and Joy were feeding off each other’s enthusiasm.
However, what brought the whole thing together was Joy’s vocals and songwriting. He does a great job of packing detailed, vivid stories into his songs, and his vocals really convey the emotions of lyrics. Whether it was the raw power of Like Gold, the openness and honesty of Take Your Time – which married a joyful melody with bluesy tones – or the sparse, echoing From Afar, he delivered an impassioned performance that was full of conviction. He also came across as warm and chatty on stage, telling stories about the origins of his songs and cracking self-deprecating jokes.
Some of the standout moments were the most stripped-back ones. The subdued, 90s rock-influenced I’m With You, which Joy performed solo, highlighted the gravel and husky tones in his voice as well as showing off his impressive range. Meanwhile, the uptempo acoustic versions of Little Boy and Bonnie And Clyde put the emphasis firmly on characterisation and the stripped-back approach enhanced the narrative. Alone With Me was another early highlight, with its laid-back feel and warm, affectionate lyrics, as well as showcasing Joy’s guitar-playing skills, whilst a yearning rendition of Georgia had the crowd in full voice.
Joy closed the set with a bright, lively version of Saturday Sun, with his vocals soaring over the breezy melody. He broke off to allow the crowd to sing the final chorus alone, praising them for their ‘beautiful’ singing, before launching into his signature song Riptide. For me it summed up his whole performance – a driving, fast-paced melody, smooth yet sharp vocals, clever lyrics and a huge note at the end. After thanking the audience for a special night and promising to come back, he performed Lay It On Me, with its big chorus and jangling percussion. The crowd gave him an enormous cheer at the end and I’m pretty sure they’d have stayed to hear him play for another hour at least.
Overall Vance Joy delivered an accomplished performance that kept the crowd’s energy up throughout and highlighted his skills as a vocalist and songwriter. He’s got fantastic stage presence and showed he’s just as comfortable on the big stage as he is in smaller, more intimate venues, whilst the band added great layers to his sound. He gets better every time I see him perform and personally I can’t wait until he’s back in the UK again.
Set list: 1. Call If You Need Me 2. Mess Is Mine 3. Like Gold 4. Take Your Time 5. Alone With Me 6. Fire And The Flood 7. I’m With You 8. From Afar 9. Little Boy 10. Bonnie And Clyde 11. Wasted Time 12. Georgia 13. One Of These Days 14. All Night Long/Sorry (Lionel Richie/Justin Bieber cover) 15. Saturday Sun 16. Riptide 17. Lay It On Me Performance date: 13th November 2018