On another bitterly cold November night, a small crowd of scarves and beanies queue up outside the steps of Bodega, waiting for the warmth of the bar – and of course, the sold out gig headlined by the Irish powerhouse that is Foy Vance and band.
“Armed with his chest on display, his classic flat cap, and his pristinely twiddled tache, Foy sits down to play piano.”
As the temperature dropped, the crowd cosied up to fellow Irish talent Ryan McMullan, performing songs from his EP, Listen, who Vance seems to be nurturing to follow in his footsteps. McMullan’s acoustic, soulful sound reverberated seamlessly through Bodega’s intimate walls, showcasing his songwriting skills.
In the extended break, the conversations started to buzz, with drinks now flowing, and the temperature rising – queue the smoke machine! For Foy Vance finally makes an appearance (fashionably late). Armed with his chest on display, his classic flat cap, and his pristinely twiddled tache, Foy sits down to play piano. Barely visible for the average standing human he starts to sing ‘Ziggy Looked Me In the Eye’ with utmost sincerity, a gospel laced song about social revolution .
“The audience is never just an onlooker in a Foy Vance show, but an active participant…”
Those that had not previously seen Foy Vance in action and therefore had preconceived ideas about him based on his more folk inspired music – me – would expect a similar mellow vibe for the rest of the night.
However, when the song stopped two thirds through, and with a cheeky glint in the eye, Vance muttered softly with a heavy Irish accent: “So… the president of the United States might be an Oompa Loompa”, and proceeded with the rest of the song. I knew I was in for a good night.
The setlist for the evening mostly comprised of songs from new album The Wild Swan released in May and formative 2013 album The Joy of Nothing. The set alternated smoothly from upbeat bluesy rock numbers like ‘Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution’ to beautifully crafted Irish folk songs like ‘Bangor Town’ (inspired by Foy’s hometown in Northern Ireland).
Each song had its own dedicated moments: heartwarming anecdotes, like the story of Jerry and Jill (which I regrettably won’t go into for lack of comedic timing).
It is clear that Foy Vance is an artist that thrives on developing a relationship with his fans, and he achieves this in a way that is so charming you can’t help but laugh, move and sing along with him.
When he sings ‘You and I’, a duet with Bonnie Raitt, it is as if the audience duets in Raitt’s place. The audience is never just an onlooker in a Foy Vance show, but an active participant. I think this is the secret to Foy’s performance magic. His music speaks for itself, whilst Vance himself entertains and seduces you all the way through to the curfew.
With people still singing ‘Guiding Light’ (a song co-written by Ed Sheeran) and humming ‘The Wild Swans On The Lake’ some time after the show ended, it makes sense that this ‘wee Irish man’ will be supporting Elton John in the near future and I can say with all honesty that this was one of the most intimate and authentic gig experiences I’ve had so far.
I left the gig feeling warm, despite the freezing winds, and in awe – of both the talent and impressive facial hair.
Image courtesy of Pomona PR