Vance Joy performs at The Anthem in DC on March 25, 2023. (Photo by David LaMason)
Having the opening spot for Taylor Swift on her 1989 World Tour and then P!NK on her Beautiful Trauma World Tour is a feat. But then going on to sell over millions of copies of your first album — and following that up with two more critically acclaimed albums, including last year’s In Our Own Sweet Time — just goes to show that Vance Joy’s tank is full and the road is stretching far into the distance.
I was fortunate to be able to cover Joy’s tour stop at the Lincoln Theatre back in 2017, so seeing him and his band take the stage at The Anthem for his In Our Own Sweet Time Tour Saturday night to a sold-out crowd was thrilling. Seeing an artist with a talent for crafting great pop songs rise so quickly is a testament to his skills and ability to draw you in.
And the new(er) songs on In Our Own Sweet Time have a relaxed, lived-in quality, which may be due, in part, to the pandemic and having more than anticipated time on his hands. As Vance Joy — the Australian singer-songwriter took his stage name from a character in Aussie novelist Peter Carey’s book Bliss — told the sold-out crowd on March 25: “I have some songs written in 2019 and 2020 and 2021, when it was a bit slow. I spent a lot of time on the couch.”
“Thanks for turning out! It’s been a little while since we played a headlining show in DC,” Joy announced before starting on “Mess Is Mine” as the crowd clapped along and sang every line. Vance Joy, it must be said, is a charmer with a way of commanding a stage, even when it’s just him and an acoustic guitar. Or maybe that’s the power of these songs that so easily worm their way into one’s brain. If you aren’t careful you can find your self singing the word of “Like Gold” — That’s the way it was, but that’s history — in the most inopportune places.
And Joy’s band was tight For example, when that chorus on “Red Eye” hit, the horns seemed to give it a punch that made me go back afterward and re-listen to the song, which was featured on his debut LP. And I think this new arrangement really transforms this song. I’d love to see a live recording come out of this tour, because I feel over the last several years Vance Joy has really grown as a performer and hearing even the new songs live hits a little harder.
“This is the last show of the whole tour. This is so nice to end on a Saturday,” Vance Joy told the crowd before he started strumming his ukulele as the entire venue sang along to the song “Saturday Sun,” the single from his sophomore album, Nation of Two. Like so many of Joy’s faster songs it’s a fun tune that’s perfectly designed to get you moving, making it less of a concert and more of a participatory event.
About halfway through his set, the rest of the band stepped off stage, leaving Vance Joy solo with his acoustic guitar. He told the crowd, “Years ago when I first started I had a funny experience playing this [song]… It’s about loving someone from a distance and I went to a radio station and when I arrived I thought maybe they had forgotten that I was there to play music. So there was only one guy, and he felt bad there were no visitors, so I played this love song to this 50-year-old man. And he didn’t know where to look, and I didn’t know where to look,” Vance paused as the audience laughed. “And it was okay,” he said before starting in on “From Afar.”
After singing, “I’m With You,” a couple of band members returned and after taking a breather Vance noticed that someone had proposed in the audience, so he dedicated the next song, “Looking at Me Like That” to the couple.
Watch the official music video for “Missing Piece” by Vance Joy on YouTube:
Vance Joy left some of his biggest fan favorites for the latter part of the set, getting to “Fire and the Flood,” “Catalonia,” and the “Riptide.” The band even played the ABBA cover of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” that had everyone bopping around before ending the set with “Lay It On Me.”
Although Vance Joy’s set at The Anthem was the end of his North American tour, he has a few dates in Europe before wrapping things up.
The setlist included:
Mess Is Mine
Every Side of You
We’re Going Home
I’m With You
Looking at Me Like That
Fire and the Flood
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (ABBA cover)
Lay It on Me
Here are more photos of Vance Joy performing at The Anthem on March 25, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.