There’s this story that I think you’ll like. This guy decides to quit his job as an Australian football player and heads to the internet with his ukulele. This musician writes a hit and finds himself. He just played the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and sold the 10,000+ capacity place out himself.
Oh, oh. That’s some impressive stuff.
This is the story of James Keogh, best known as Vance Joy. The Australian native, who left a promising football career behind to play indie pop folk tunes for the masses, first released his 2013 hit “Riptide” independently on the interwebs. Shortly thereafter, he signed with Atlantic Records for a five-album deal. His subsequent 2013 release God Loves You When You’re Dancing went triple platinum, he dropped Dream Your Life Away a year later followed by a world tour opening for Taylor Swift, and this past February, Joy’s third release Nation of Two hit the airwaves.
“I never knew when I put this song on the internet what would happen and I’m still surprised.” Joy said at his recent Red Rocks show before playing “Riptide.” The radio jam inspired a massive sing-along between the rocks, with Joy even stepping back for a chorus to let the crowd shout the tune, a song he actually wrote about a hotel on the Australian coast.
Along with “Riptide,” Joy played other crowd favorites including “Mess Is Mine,” “Georgia,” and his latest “Saturday Sun.” He was backed by a five-piece band which included a duo horn section and an upright piano player. Mid-set, the group crowded around the front of the stage together for an acoustic breakdown for “Little Boy” and “Bonnie and Clyde.” Later, they played a Lionel Ritchie/Justin Bieber mashup of “All Night Long” with “Sorry,” which had fans screaming, dancing, and even laughing. A Bieber cover? I know. But it was really good!
On every track of the band’s 17-song set, it was impossible not to notice Keogh living up to his stage name. His 6’ 3” frame cracked a wide smile before, during, and after every song. Literal joy was plastered across his face as he crooned to the delight of the sold-out crowd under Colorado’s full moon and clear skies.
Backstage before the set, Joy divulged, “This is the best venue in the whole world!” before talking about how surreal it felt to be getting ready to go onstage when he and his girlfriend had been hiking around Red Rocks Park just the day before. “I’ve never seen a show here but this is incredible!” he smiled in the most unassumingly excited tone. Later, Joy’s manager Jaddan Comerford revealed this night was a true highlight not only for Vance, but for everyone involved on his team. And yet for someone about to play one of the biggest shows of their career to date, Joy was relaxed backstage, busting out dance moves, chatting about his Ogden Theatre performance a few years ago, and just generally chilling.
Joy’s Nation of Two Tour continues with shows in the US and Canada through July followed by a massive international run through the end of the year across Australia, South America, and Europe. Several of these shows are also already sold out. And whether you’re a die-hard fan (like the woman above), a recently converted boyfriend following Red Rocks, or the casual singer/songwriter listener, you’ve got to admit: Oh, oh - that’s some really impressive stuff.
See more Vance Joy show photos here.
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All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.