Foy Vance: Union Chapel 08/12/09
Alot has been said about "yer man" Foy Vance. He'd just finished a very successful and extensive tour opening for Tori Amos and was now well into his own UK tour.
Some hail him as the new Van Morrison which is praise indeed, so I was very interested to see what all the fuss was about when he blew in to do his only London gig at the Union Chapel.
Firstly, the beautiful surroundings of the Chapel at December time, bedecked with a splendid christmas tree gave the evening a sense of glorious expectancy. The festive spirit seemed to have crystallised and the "goodwill to all men" was ever present, the vibe was good so it was now up to the artist to deliver.........no pressure then!
Breezing onto the stage, cracking jokes about singing hymns (well hIs dad was in the bible business!) put the crowd at ease and allowed Foy to unfold his magic on us. I knew in seconds this was going to be a very special evening and by god it was!
The first thing you noticed about FV is his immensly soulful voice. Capable of touching the very depth of your being a sound paradoxically feather-light and grave, giving way to the grittiest blue eyed soul you're ever likely to hear. It has an incomparable soul-baring intensity which seemed to bathe everything around him in a shrouded mist.
Foy's striking set of dolorous songs kept the listener on the edge of their seat. Each pick or strum of the guitar well chosen, each lyric well honed. The depth of the material offers much grace and assurance and the voice conveys, in its soaring peaks and writhing in breathy whispers - an alluring sensuality few, if any could match.
Comparisons (Morrisson, Waits, Bono! Buckley, Scott ...and I could go on) are futile suffice to say this guy gives more bang for his buck than the lot put together. Why Foy isn't a household name is beyond me but the trappings of fame and celebrity are not his calling. He is a true artist challenging the complexities of life and trying to find meaning through his exceptionally gifted talent and his wondrous music.
Vance wastes no time in executing his manic mastery even on his first offering of the night. He builds his opening gambit with applomb until he's literally trying to saw his guitar in two with a violin bow, which I've not witnessed since Jimmy Page! The audience are enraptured by this guy, and bill and coo accordingly.
'Be With Me' with it's devastatingly simple yet ultra heavy riff brings our boy down to more rawer, baser urges. FV is not beyond getting jiggy with it as this gem denotes. Leaving the looping behind 'Treading Water' demonstrates Foy's guitar skills which have a beautifully suspended sound enhanced by an absolutely fresh chord structure, so sweet to the ear. His princely songwriting seems to know no bounds, not at all narrow or circumbscribed, a true troubadour with a free spirit. There's a nod to Jeff Buckley in this particular one as his voice can really get up in the that sort of angelic register, few singers can dream of.
He then shows his soft and delicate side with a hypnotic droning tune and his accapella version of 'Will Ye Go Lassie Go' lifts the church like only a son of a preacher man could do (No, not the Dusty track), and 'Shed A Little Light' with It's 3 chords and the truth vibe shows us he can rock with the best of them.
And talking about rocking with the best of them 'Peace Hope And Love' reminds me of a riff Peter Green would be proud of. The unholy noise he gets out of his poor guitar defies description (Eno would love this and Michael Brooke, never mind Daniel Lanois!)
His story telling is acute and 'Gabriel And The Vagabond' shows this admirably. His soothing irish lilt keeps his reverential audience spellbound and his interpretation of 'Billie Jean' does like wise, ending up in a looped up vortex of MJ yelps that I couldn't help bursting out with laughter too. There's a wryness and wicked sense of humour lurking underneath that's for sure!
I could go on but suffice to say this guy is pretty godamn special (even a couple proposed in the bar afterwards, touched by his music) but I want to leave room for you to check out his marvellous miniatures, his uncanny intimacy knows no bounds, this is the sound of inescapable retreat. Bravo!
Words Emrys Baird