Gavin James: Tapping into our love of a pub sing-song

Gavin James

Cork Opera House

“Are there any lovebirds in the house? And if there aren’t, what the hell are you doing at a Gavin James gig?” quipped 14-year-old Cork YouTube sensation Allie Sherlock, opening for James on Thursday night. 

There were indeed plenty of couples on hand for the first of James’ two nights at Cork Opera House. 

But there were families too, and gaggles of young women: A testament to James’ broad appeal.

It’s an appeal that has earned the Dubliner over 250m streams on Spotify, two Choice Prize best song awards, and the backing of recording giants Sony and Warner.

James, it could be argued, occupies a similar space to Ed Sheeran, whom he’s supported on tour in the past.

Record execs have taken note: There must be a niche in music for the everyman singer-songwriter, a normal-looking bloke, not a snarling sneering rock god, but a decent, ordinary kind of guy who strums chords and writes songs that won’t upset anybody.

James will never bring you to the teetering brink of darkness, explore political rage, or, indeed, do anything other than express the universal sentiments of love, heartbreak, nostalgia, and coming of age. 

His songs are a comforting, formatted hug, radio-friendly, family-friendly, and easy to sing along to.

The red-haired crooner made his entrance alone, with a semi-acoustic guitar, to a warm welcome that grew ever warmer as his three-piece backing band joined him and he progressed through hits like ‘Nervous’, ‘Always’, ‘22’ and the recently released ‘Glow’.

“I played in pubs in Temple Bar when I started making music,” he said at one stage, and it made sense; as early as second song ‘Coming Home’, he was teaching the chorus to the more-than-willing crowd, and everybody clapped and swayed along happily. 

His talent is in tapping straight into the Irish love of a pub sing-song.

But this was a pub sing-song with bells and whistles: An expensive, slick, beautifully staged production with top-class lighting, a backing band that executed flawless guitar pop, and almost as many guitar changes as songs. 

As a performer Gavin James was charming, relaxed, and endearing: The crowd absolutely loved him.

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