Photography by Chontalle Musson
Whether he’s playing to 80,000 people at a stadium in a supporting slot or headlining an intimate 400 capacity venue, Vance Joy will make the most of every opportunity, never failing to put on a show that will leave the crowd awestruck.
It’s a humility that many artists lack after making a name for themselves, but the smile on Vance’s face remains just as genuine and just as wide throughout each and every performance, highlighting the fact that he plays music for no other reason than for the sheer love of it.
Coming off the back of a UK/European tour, last night’s show at The Tuning Fork was by far one of the most intimate he’s played in a while, and was likely to have been New Zealand’s last chance to witness him perform in such a small setting before he upgrades to the Town Hall in September. Needless to say, it was a night to remember.
From opening track Mess Is Mine, it was clear the crowd was there to sing back every word as they drowned out Vance and his acoustic guitar with their enthusiasm and excitement. Following those first few minutes, whether he was playing songs from his debut or from Nation of Two – released less than 2 months ago – this relentless singing and enthusiasm continued, a perfect depiction of the kind of fan base Vance has built for himself over the past few years.
It’s no surprise that Vance has garnered this kind of intense dedication and loyalty from his fans. Not once throughout the night did his voice falter, sounding almost exactly as he does on record and combined with the venue, which was perfectly designed for acoustically driven music, it was one of the best vocal performances I have ever experienced. Whether its the soothing, sometimes ethereal tones of his voice, the content of his lyrics, or an amalgamation of the two, every second of the performance saw waves of emotion wash over the crowd, bringing everyone in attendance together – if only for an evening.
Vance connects with his fans through more than just the music though, coming across as adorably human as he mixed up the lyrics to Little Boy approximately 60 seconds after warning us that he might do just that. By addressing it and laughing at himself as he did so, Vance made what could have been a somewhat bashful situation extremely endearing and reminded us that while he is now internationally known, he’s still not too far removed from the people who had paid to see him perform.
It is impossible not to like him.
The night was dotted with anecdotal insights of his life up until this point, breaking down any remaining barriers and making an already intimate evening feel even more rare and noteworthy. He told us about an open mic night performance from early on in his career when he wrote the lyrics to his newly written song on his arm (as if he’d ever have the composure to read them as he played guitar) and laughed as he recounted crashing his bike aged 9, resulting in him being fitted with an adult-sized crown that glowed in the dark at “the disco”. We were treated to a broad overview of the life of the man in front of us and in those words, a real connection was formed. Having context to songs like Little Boy (one of Vance’s few autobiographical songs based on the bike accident) made the night even more magical, and had you wondering what other stories were left untold as he launched into fan favourites such as Fire and the Flood and Georgia on my Mind.
After a final anecdote told on behalf of his father about horse drawn milk carts and the kindness of strangers, and stumbling over his words as he exclaimed how happy the evening had made him, Vance launched into the song that started it all, Riptide. As he let the crowd take over, he took in the scene before him, the smile that had been plastered on his face the whole night only growing ever wider before finishing the song and leaving the stage.
At the crowd’s request, he returned once more but with no encore planned, decided instead to perform a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. Despite it not being one of his own, the cover was received just as well, again highlighting the dedication of his fanbase.
He left the stage for the last time, leaving us all feeling a little fuller than we were before. Like Vance, we were all “very feeling happy” indeed.
View the photo gallery below.
Vance Joy is returning to Auckland this September for a one off show at the Town Hall on September 29th.
Mess Is Mine
Take Your Time
Call If You Need Me
I’m With You
Fire and the Flood
Lay It On Me
We’re Going Home
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)