Vance Joy, with opening acts Jamie Lawson and Elle King, played a sold-out show at the art-deco Fox Theatre in Oakland on Saturday, 27 Feb. It was an all-ages show and as Elle King said, “Raise your hands if you’re over 21….What are you doing here?!” All three acts had solid performances, although I definitely had a favorite.
SMS and I walked in just after Jamie Lawson had started. He had a small, self-supported background of his name separating him from the rest of the stage, which had a huge backdrop of VANCE JOY. He played an acoustic set composed of mid-tempo songs with very sweet lyrics. The cynic among us would use slightly more negative words such as “saccharine” or “sappy” but boo on that person! Who wants a negative vibe 😉 Jamie Lawson has done well in Great Britain and hopes to break into the US scene more. He’s got a good start by having a solo tour starting in May so best of luck to him.
Elle King totally rocked. She was extremely adept at sassy stage banter and really livened up the crowd. She opened up with “Where the Devil Won’t Go,” which was awesome and high-energy. She free-styled a little musical interlude while waiting for the banjo to be trouble-shooted since initially, it wasn’t miked properly (a replacement cord fixed the problem). Everyone thought her lyrics were great, mostly because “Oakland” was rhymed with “rule” and “cool” so the concert-goers felt good about themselves. Seriously, it was a pretty funny improv and definitely a testament to her stage presence and showmanship. It was fairly clear that she’s a little over singing “Ex’s and Ohs,” but she still delivered. I heard one of my favorite live mash-ups ever from here, which was Nick Jonas “Jealous” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” It was excellent! It does reveal my slightly embarrassing pop-music tastes though.
Then, it was time for Vance Joy. He had a confident stage presence and an excellent back-up band. His songs are similar in style to Jamie Lawson and without the power of the back-up band, it would have had the same mellow energy. The thing that struck me the most about his songs is that he uses a falsetto in almost every one to convey vulnerability. The thing is, his falsetto is not really that good. I haven’t heard enough of his recordings to hear if it does better in the studio environment, but in the live setting, it’s almost cringe-worthy at times just listening to the vocals alone. It veers towards a pitchy vibrato that if I was sitting in a coffee shop open mic night, I’d look around for his cheering section and hope that one of them would pull him aside afterwards and say, “Great lyrics, great chord progression….maybe lose the falsetto?”
Vance Joy played an hour-long set, which included an encore of two songs, one unaccompanied acoustic and finally, “The Fire and the Flood,” the tour’s namesake and really well done. Another highlight was “Call Me Al,” which showed the strength of the back-up band since they did a great job with the back-up vocals and horns, even though the horn section was a lot smaller than Paul Simon’s.
So, overall, solid show. I wouldn’t buy marked up scalped tickets, but face value would be ok. I love the Fox Theatre and we don’t go out to concerts that often so it was a nice treat.