Just like my mum used to say, “better late than never”, and Kevin Morby is for all intents and purposes nine months late. He was due to play Gorillia in November 2017 but citing “overall health and wellbeing” as being the reason for cutting short his last European tour after having been out on the road for nearly two years non-stop is perfectly understandable. If tonight’s performance is anything to go by it also proves to of been a shrewd and completely correct decision as we get to enjoy a revitalised Morby.
Morby enters onto stage in a custom-embellished $50 Amazon suit by Judith Rothman-Pierc, which is emblazoned with the word “CRYBABY” across the shoulders of his jacket. It’s quite a statement outfit and the message is “I think there’s something sort of dangerous and cool about being a crybaby”. Morby is embracing power and theatrics of a stage outfit, if Nick Cave came onstage in a t-shirt and jeans he wouldn’t be Nick Cave but as soon as adorns his trademark suit he turns into a God onstage.
The set kicks off with the title track from his last album ‘City Music’, it’s mesmeric looping riff locks in and the band sound tight straight from the get go. The mantra to the great musical cities Morby has called home rings around the venue “Oh, that city music. Oh, that city sound. Oh, how you’re pulling my heart strings and, oh, let’s go downtown.”
The stand out of the set by far is ‘I Have Been to the Mountain’ is gives me instant goosebumps, it’s played a little bit gentler than on record but the live trumpet accompaniment and Morby’s powerful vocal performance are what really make it. The rest of the set leans heavy on his latest record with interspersed with highlights from his back catalogue.
The surprise of the night comes when Kevin says “I wanna get Katie up here to sing a couple of songs”, at first I’m confused as to who Katie is but as soon as she appears onstage it dawns on me that it’s Katie Crutchfield, AKA Waxahatchee, Morby’s girlfriend. They take on two covers, the first a very sweet cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ followed by ‘The Dark Don’t Hide It’ by Magnolia Electric Co. in homage to the late, great Jason Monila. It’s a classy way to round off the main set before Morby return’s without band to play a striped back version of Beautiful Strangers.
This is a night where you can see Morby starting to take a step out of the heavy shadow his influences, cast over him into the light of his own path. Just like my mum used to say “better late than never” and long may it continue.
Kevin Morby performed at Gorilla on Monday 20th August 2018. Words by Dan Waite.