Vance Joy, born James Keogh, has come a long way since performing at open-mic nights in Melbourne, Australia in the early 2000s. The folk singer/songwriter played to a chilly, but overjoyed crowd at Jacobs Pavilion on Tuesday, June 5.
While Vance Joy eventually blew the crowd away, Mondo Cozmo, the opening artist, had a noticeably difficult time connecting to the crowd and getting them on their feet. With just a handful of people standing to enjoy the short set, the rest of the audience was focused on anything but the stage. The passing of the Nautica Queen got a better reaction out of the crowd than the opener did.
It was unclear what Mondo Cozmo was going for in terms of style and genre. I could not quite place them into a category, which made the set overwhelming and hard to focus on. The style, or lack thereof, of Mondo Cozmo, was so vastly different than that of Vance Joy, and not in a way that complimented the headlining act at all.
Before the show, the only knowledge I had of Vance Joy and his music was that he was the voice behind mega-hit ‘Riptide’ which played on radios everywhere a few summers ago. After the set finished, I now know Vance Joy as one of my favorite voices of folk music and the king of storytelling.
Before each of the songs, he explained the story behind the lyrics. Sometimes these stories were translated to music in a very literal, straightforward sense, like the one of him falling off of a bike as a young boy and being taken to a nearby hospital—which became the song ‘Young Boy.’ Others were merely inspiring and allowed for some individual interpretation. Either way, the stories gave us a bit of an insight on who Vance Joy is, making him entirely endearing and relatable.
The stories helped to see each song as more than a catchy tune and added a visual to the lyrics. There was a great dichotomy of his two albums throughout the set; his second album being much more vibrant and confident than the first, it is easy to distinguish which song comes from which album, even though I have only been a fan now for a very short time.
The lighting and stage design were eye-catching but not distracting or overdone, and while he stood in the same place for over an hour just singing and playing the guitar, the crowd was entertained and kept their energy all the way through the last song.
His voice, rippled and raspy, adds such depth to his music, which the crowd imitated as they shouted the lyrics back to the stage the whole night. On multiple occasions, the phone flashlights went up while Vance Joy serenaded Cleveland with his signature slow songs.
It was a beautiful night spent with an even better artist at Jacobs Pavilion, but next time, Vance Joy, leave the opener behind.