When PJ Morton sings, it’s with a tenderness and warmth that truly comes from the bottom of the heart. Born Paul Morton Jr., he’s experienced enough to stand in the spotlight as an OG filled with enough soul to eject into the audience seated before him. He’s young enough to still relate with his fans – which vary in age from as young as their 20s to as old as 40, 50, and beyond – and deliver some banter to them through his performances. All this and more is easily noticeable as the New Orleans native performs in various cities on his Watch The Sun Tour. I myself was seated (and eventually standing) in Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre for a stop towards the end of this tour.
Morton opened the night with a performance of “My Peace,” the highlight record from Watch The Sun which features JoJo and Mr. Talkbox. Seated by a piano under purple and orange lighting, PJ Morton – who was also surrounded by an ensemble of musicians that elevated the performances throughout the night – had no issue in finding his groove to begin the night. While seated, he passionately played the keys, dancing his fingers effortlessly on them while soulfully singing from the heart. If he wasn’t seated, Morton was up on his feet walking back and forth on the stage sharing charismatic moments with the audience whether it be through anecdotes from his career, callbacks for certain records, and saying thank you for their past, present, and future support.
Soon enough, Morton took things back to 2019’s Paul to perform “Ready,” which had attendees of the Emerson Colonial Theatre up and out of their seats. The blast into the past continued with a stop in 2017 for the euphoric “Claustrophobic” and the powerful “Sticking To My Guns” off of Gumbo. Throughout the night, we’d continue to hear records from these three albums – Gumbo, Paul, and Watch The Sun, and it became clear that PJ Morton had one job in mind: to take this crowd to church. As the son of gospel singer Paul Morton, it’s no surprise that PJ could lead a congregation into praising love, stomping their feet and clapping their hands in the name of it, and just feeling it overall.
Morton’s next turn during the night swung us back into Watch The Sun with performances of “Please Don’t Walk Away,” “So Lonely,” and “Still Believe.” At this point in the show, there were several reasons to be absolutely enthralled by the showcase at hand, and what came next was undoubtedly my favorite section of the show. For the better part of what was left of the night, the audience was permanently removed from their seats starting with Morton’s performance of “Yearning For Your Love.” He then jokingly begged fans to let him take his time as he eased into “First Began,” a crowd favorite. A sweet anecdote behind “Go Thru Your Phone” and a reminder of his Grammy win with “Say So” came next. A medley of “Alright” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” followed by an absolutely joyous and crowd-assisted performance of “The Benediction” and “How Deep Is Your Love” brought the night to a close. Amid that final three-track run, church was fully in session, smiles in the crowd were bright and wide, and happiness floated throughout the theatre like a cirrus cloud.
I left Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre a bigger fan of PJ Morton’s than I was when I began the night. Morton took this crowd to church and lifted us all up with love. His purity, elegance, and regal authority were just some of the things to admire about the Watch The Sun singer that night. It goes without saying that a PJ Morton show should absolutely be on your bucket list, but what is important to note is that the October night in Boston encapsulated everything Morton worked for. And that is to fill up a room with fans of his own itching to sing his songs even before he’s ready to and more than happy to clap and wave their hands all in the name of jazz, soul, gospel, and most importantly, love.