By Alyssa Rinelli Special to OnMilwaukee Published Jun 30, 2023 at 10:26 AM Photography: Ty Helbach

I struck up a small conversation with my barista at Anodyne Coffee as they were making my pre-Summerfest pick-me-up. I shared that I would see Vance Joy tonight, and the barista added, almost nonchalantly, “Oh, he stopped in yesterday for a coffee.”

It is usually surprising to hear an artist as famous as the "Riptide" singer Vance Joy galavanting around a city before performing. But Vance Joy doesn't just appear to have that “boy next door” image; thanks to his easy smile and sweet songs, he honestly lives it. 

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He brought that image and feeling to Summerfest this year, strolling onto the stage with a moody background and casual button-down shirt to open with “Missing Piece,” a song from his newest album and title of his tour, “In Our Own Sweet Time.” The song discusses the separated feeling many of us had between our loved ones during COVID lockdowns. Vance Joy pulled inspiration for the song while separated cross-continentally from his then-girlfriend Selen Us. The two tied the knot two weeks before the show last night. 

Vance Joy was joined on stage by a large ensemble including a brass section, strings and percussion including a grand piano and drum set. They created that round and filling sound that appears in many Vance Joy songs – perhaps most heard during his performance of “Red Eye,” another song about a long-distance lover, where the entire band showed off their musical talent all at once to create a single beautiful sound. 

Immediately after the sound-filling performance of “Red Eye," the entire ensemble left the stage, leaving Vance Joy and his guitar to play “I’m With You” – perhaps one of Vance Joy’s most prolific and gut-punching love songs. It was obvious that the audience felt the same way. The crowd grew quiet, some putting their arms around each other and flashing their phone lights above their heads to create a sea of harmonically moving lights, swaying slowly back and forth to the slow movement of the song. A cheer only erupted after Vance Joy hit the last, impressively high note of the song. 

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Vance Joy switched out his guitar almost every song, setting to different keys, or switching to his famed ukulele, made famous during the opening riff of "Riptide." The ukulele made several appearances last night for songs such as "Catalonia," "Saturday Sun" and, of course, "Riptide." 

Surprisingly, "Riptide" – Vance Joy’s most famous song – was not the last song of the night. When the signature strums on the ukulele started to play, the crowd erupted into applause before quickly transitioning to singing along. The voices of the audience were just barely quieter than Vance Joy singing through the microphone and speakers, turning "Riptide" into a duet between Vance Joy and the audience. 

The last strum was met with roaring applause, and I wondered how he could top it. Well, I didn’t wonder for long. As the applause slowed down, Vance Joy started to play ABBA’s famed tune “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie,” and the crowd roared up again and began to dance along, keeping all of that momentum from "Riptide." It is no wonder why Vance Joy has soared above the immense swell from that one 2013 breakout song. 

The night ended with “Lay It On Me” and a bow with his entire band. The crowd shared their absolute delight from the show as they all locked arms and bowed together as the entire crew for Vance Joy.

Vance Joy