Vancouver jumps for Vance Joy

Vance Joy with Amy Shark and Chappell Roan at Vogue Theatre, 9/27/17 

Vance Joy @ Vogue
Photo by Jessica Vandergulik

Australian folk-pop artist Vance Joy kicked off his Lay it On Me tour by satisfying fans with old favourites and showing off new tunes at Vancouver’s Vogue theatre on Wednesday, September 27.

The night got off to an awkward start with Chappell Roan’s opening set. Technical difficulties had the newcomer giggling nervously. After an often off-key performance of “Bad for You”, Roan let the crowd in on the drama: “I can’t hear myself, so I hope this goes good!” The audience shouted encouragements as Roan found her stride, moving to the keyboard to cover Fleetwood Mac. Roan has a Lana Del Rey meets Lorde meets Kate Bush thing going on. What she lacks in depth she makes up for in youth.

Where Chappell Roan came across as a novice, Australian Amy Shark stepped onstage as a self-assured pro. The audience was treated to her energetic, quirky songs in an engaging, down-to-earth performance. She got the audience laughing with her Aussie-accented intro to “Weekends”. With upbeat songs and cheerful ease, Shark had the crowd bobbing and engaged so that by the time she introduced her last song, the hit “Adore”, the audience didn’t want her to leave.

After two openers and a drawn out changeover, the sold out theatre was full of anticipation by the time Vance Joy’s band took to the stage. Bathed in blue light, the band stood out in silhouette as drums and trumpet signalled the arrival of the man himself. Vance Joy stepped centre stage and right into “Fire and Flood”. His understated wardrobe of blue jeans and a blue button-up matched his humble, barebones manner.

The Lay it On Me tour is named for Joy’s latest single, his first new release since the 2016 single “Straight into Your Arms”, and Joy shared more of his new material with the enthusiastic Vancouver crowd. With lyrics like “dancing in the kitchen” and “let your phone keep ringing”, “Take Your Time” is a millennial hipster anthem. “Call if You Need Me” was another new tune that suggested an evolution to a more folk-less pop sound for Joy.

Although his vocals were subdued and a touch strained in his higher range, he delivered with power and a winning smile. The audience met Joy’s clean-cut good looks and easy manner with adoration. Every time he sung the word “babe” the crowd responded with cheers. The addition of trumpet and sax to his band (keys, bass, drums, and Joy on guitar) was a nice touch that filled out the sound and punctuated his vocals.

Highlights were songs the audience could sing along to – old favourites like “Fire and Flood”, “Lay it On Me”, and an unexpected mashup of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” received wild applause. When Joy came back onstage for an encore – ukulele in hand to close out with “Riptide” and “Mess is Mine” – the night felt complete.

With Joy, in terms of personality and his music, what you see is what you get. His songs are straightforward: relatable toe tapping, head bobbing love stories. The atmosphere was one of cheerful optimism and a whole lot of love for Joy’s contagious rhythms. One couple in the Vogue’s dress circle spent the evening dancing in each others’ arms. The audience, faces lit by the stage lights, carried the last verse of “Riptide”. The lyrics “I love you when you’re singing that song” took on new meaning as the audience sang them back to Joy. Though he kept the banter brief, he was certainly feeling the love, commenting on his amazing fans and Vancouver’s “great energy”. In a city known for its lack of sunshine, the vibe in the Vogue was like a Vance Joy song: hopeful, adventurous and united in the experience of love’s ups and downs. With all that love in the room, Vancouver became Vance-couver for one night.