Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance came to The Bodega to showcase his new album, Joy of Nothing, during his worldwide tour which has seen him touring widely in America and the UK and onwards to Europe. With a collection of gorgeous tracks which are alternately heart-warming and heart-wrenching, he put on one of the best gigs I have been to in a long time.
The tiny venue was already full by the time I arrived, the crowd listening avidly to support act Rams’ Pocket Radio, another Northern Irish singer-come-guitarist-come-pianist. Having had a quick listen on Spotify, I hadn’t been overly-fussed about catching his set; to me he seemed an unusual support act for Foy Vance, given his somewhat experimental and synthesized sound. However, having seen him perform live, I am happy to retract that statement. He was able to switch between instruments in between and during songs, single-handedly creating the whole of the dense soundtrack live. His stage presence was endearing and his efforts to liven up the audience were successful, teaching us lyrics to his songs so that we could sing along. By the time Foy Vance came to the stage, the crowd was excited and ready to participate.
Foy Vance, with backing guitarist, bassist and drummer, entered and immediately performed two of his well-known songs, before pausing for a chat with the audience, funny and perhaps a bit drunk. He then went into lovely song Janey, which is definitely worth listening to. His voice, with its slight Northern-Irish accent and rawness, is stunning and the smallness of Bodega allowed for the music to fill the whole room with equally stunning chords and beats. We were then asked to welcome a ‘very special lady,’ upon which a young girl, perhaps about ten-years-old, came on stage to play the timpani during my favourite Foy Vance track, Closed Hand, Full of Friends (Listen to it!!) The song alone would have made me smile but it was an endearing touch to have the little girl, who turned out to be his daughter, on stage for it, giving her father a hug and a kiss before she re-joined the crowd.
It is obviously a given that for a gig to be good, the act must thoroughly prepared, however there is such a thing as being too prepared. By this I mean the acts which have a rigid structure for their gig: play this song, say hi to the crowd, sing next song, make joke about Nottingham etc etc etc. Foy Vance was very much himself throughout the gig and some of the most memorable moments were those which were quite clearly spontaneous decisions. Having started playing one song with his backing band, he shook his head, turned to them and asked them to stop. He then stood up on a stool at the front of the stage and, without microphone for his voice or his guitar, played the song acoustic instead. From here he went, seemingly spontaneously, into a cover of Walk on the Wild Side, saying as we laughed, ‘Well we all love it!’ The crowd were asked to carry on singing the ‘doo-doo-doos’ of the song while he burst into a spontaneous prayer to the ceiling – I don’t know why, but it was entertaining. Telling us he had enjoyed our singing, we were then taught the chorus to Feel For Me so that we could carry on singing with him.
One of my favourite songs of the night was Shed a Little Light. Once again, the audience were asked to sing backing track; some talented singers were apparently present as multiple harmonies broke out across the room. He then alternated between singing just him and his guitar, and him and the rest of the band, giving the song a gospel-y feeling that was impossible not to join in with. Following from this, the rest of the band left the stage and he sang a new song, a beautiful song about loving someone forever, that we were asked not to record but to just listen to. First starting the song on the piano then changing his mind and starting again on guitar, the song was emotional and had the whole audience captivated, an intimate moment. I will definitely be looking out for this to appear on my Spotify.
I am not always a fan of encores; they can be awkward and embarrassing, an audience screaming for more when, really, I’m quite happy to head home and, truthfully, so is everyone else. The encore at Foy Vance’s gig, however, was a genuine and desperate desire to have one more song. He returned with his backing band and Rams’ Pocket Radio to stand in the middle of the crowd (if you’ve seen Bodega when it’s busy, you’ll appreciate how much of a squeeze this was). Sometimes with a bit of guitar, but otherwise a cappella, he performed one last song, Guiding Light, which originally featured Ed Sheeran, the crowd joining in for the choruses. Leaving to go backstage for the final time, Foy Vance left us mid-chorus and told us to carry on until we wanted to stop. So we carried on singing for another five choruses until the final cheer.
I can honestly say this gig was brilliant. Every song caught my attention and his efforts to make this gig different to all the other gigs we’ve all been to made for an amazing night which went from strength-to-strength. If you can catch Foy Vance at all on the rest of the tour, do it do it do it!
By Alice Billin