James Morrison saved my wallet. Well, okay, he did save me a lot of money this year, when Dayly Entertainment announced that they will be bringing the British male solo artist, singer-songwriter-guitarist extraordinaire, to our country for a one night only concert. Prior to this, I learned he was staging a concert in Singapore. See, I have this good (bad) habit of flying out just to watch my favorite artists perform — my last three trips to Singapore were primarily for concerts. It’s an expensive but infinitely rewarding activity, but nothing beats experiencing live music by a musician you admire, right at our shores, with friends surrounding you. So when James Morrison Live in Manila: The Awakening World Tour was announced, I made no hesitations and found myself reserving front row tickets to his gig.
You Make It Real
My first introduction to his music was his song You Give Me Something, which I first heard on the radio years ago. I was delighted to hear the same song in the film Made Of Honor, and it was in that year that I actively sought out to find more music from James Morrison. My 2011 playlist in particular had most of his songs, especially during the second half of the year. It was soothing and also heartbreaking to hear him sing tracks like The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore, Undiscovered, Please Don’t Stop the Rain. For his third and latest album, The Awakening, I often have I Won’t Let You Go, Right by Your Side, and Slave to the Music on repeat.
There’s something about his songs that speak honestly and directly to your heart; no wonder he’s been called one of the best white soul singers we have right now. When asked about his reaction to people calling him ‘white soul,’ he replies, ‘I suppose yeah, if that’s what people want to call it. To me it’s just music that’s got passion, you know? Soul music is just music that’s got meaning and purpose. I mean, I like pop music as well, there’s great pop music. To me I am just a singer trying to convey truth through music.”
Songs for You, Truths for Me
I was one of the lucky James Morrison fans that were invited to his Meet & Greet session before the concert. Even if a day before I was able to see him up close at his press conference (and he also cheerfully waved us goodbye when it ended), it’s a whole different, and wonderful world, to approach one of your favorite artists as a fan. The first thing I did when it was our batch’s turn to have a photo-op with James was to ask him for a hug. My shy question of “Can I give you a hug?” was responded with a big smile and outstretched arms from James. “How about a smooch?” he says, and plants one on my cheek while granting my hug request. How sweet was that! After our photos were taken, all I was able to say to him before leaving was, “I’m so excited for tonight!” and there he was again with his huge little boy grin saying, “Oh, me too, me too!”
Local act Moonstar88 opened the show for James Morrison at around 8pm. I like songs from this female-fronted band — Torete, Migraine, and Panalangin, their take on an APO Hiking Society classic — so I was glad that they played all three last night. Their set was enjoyable, with Maychelle Baay’s sweet voice endearing you to her.
At 9pm, James Morrison hit the stage, setting the mood for the concert with a high-energy, soulful performance of Beautiful Life. Seeing him perform right in front of me was surreal. There I was, a couple of feet away from someone whose songs have been on my iPod for years! That night was one to relish: I had my earphones unplugged in exchange for ears being treated to live music from this bright eyed, white soul boy.
He would alternate his from his dancey tunes to his signature seranades, never letting go of that amazing energy that drawns you in. I was a fan of James for years, but seeing him live was another level of fandom for me. Experiencing him performing live lets you into his heart even more, with every emotion on his face, every strum of his guitar.
The crowd became especially responsive when he performed I Won’t Let You Go; same can be said when he sang Up which he performed with his backup singer, Beverlei Brown (Jessie J’s vocal parts). We were also treated to a beautiful solo vocals version of Broken Strings, originally a duet with Nelly Furtado. Everyone seemed to whip out their cameras for that one as it was such a tender moment.
Towards the end of the concert James expressed how grateful he was for everyone that was watching. “You guys, my audience, yes. I’m feeling that,” he says, pointing to his heart. “So I just I want to say a big massive genuine thank you from the bottom of my heart to everybody that’s come to see me play.” He also shared that he did not have any idea that so many people in the Philippines like his music, and that he never thought he would come here to perform, to which the audience responded with a standing ovation, screams and cheers.
Everyone was waiting for the song: James Morrison’s very first hit, You Give Me Something, the last song before last night’s encore. The audience immediately screamed upon recognizing the first few notes being played. I myself was near tears as he sweetly began to sing, “You only stay with me in the morning…”
After more screams and chants of ‘we want more!’ as he left the stage with his band, James Morrison came back again for more songs: Under The Influence and The Awakening, and lastly, ending the concert with Wonderful World. And with that, James Morrison ends his The Awakening world tour. He called up everyone, band and crew, on stage, introducing them by name and expressed gratitude for each one’s support for his concert tour. They lined up on stage, gave a final bow, and a wave to the audience.
James Morrison has left his fans in Manila with a lovely mix of hope, happiness, and romance. We might not always see it this way, but with beautiful music, we really do have a beautiful life.
Meet and greet photo by Magic Liwanag (www.facebook.com/magicliwanagphotography)