Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has been winning over fans with his blend of folk-rock since supporting Ed Sheeran on his UK and US tours in 2012. Now signed to Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records label, Vance recently released his third album, The Wild Swan, which was produced by Grammy Award winning producer Jacquire King and executively produced by Elton John. In support of the album, he’s taking his An Evening With Foy Vance tour across the UK, including a three-night sell-out run at London’s Union Chapel.
When the support act is a performance poet, you know it isn’t going to be your ordinary run-of-the-mill gig. Vance walked on stage to rapturous applause and made that clear through the medium of singing a cappella ‘don’t think of it as a show but as a man f***ing about with music’. This brief prelude really set the tone for what was to come as well as showing off the wonderful tone to his voice and his sense of humour, both of which were abundant throughout Vance’s performance.
Vance started the show by playing the piano, with a slow atmospheric introduction seguing into a cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’. The song really showed off Vance’s vocal range, including some impressively long-held notes, as well as highlighting the bluesy tones in his his voice which gave the song an almost gospel feel and set the template for the rest of the evening, as Vance switched between his guitars and piano and often added a little extra musical riff to the end of songs.
At times the show almost felt like a musical stream of consciousness, with songs merging into one another and Vance regularly breaking off mid-song to talk to the audience about how the concept for the tour came about, as well as stories from the trip and covering every subject from IKEA to politics. He is clearly a master storyteller and was very warm and engaging with the crowd who hung on his every word and were laughing raucously throughout, particularly at songs such as My Old Friend which involves a brilliantly ridiculous story about hiking undergarments (I won’t say more than that in case I spoil it for anyone else!)
Vance covered a range of different styles throughout his set, from traditional tunes like The Star Of County Down to the classic rock-infused Closed Hand, Full Of Friends, and mixing uptempo numbers like Casanova with more melancholy songs such as Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye. He even played the Sesame Street theme tune on his ukelele before seguing into the lullaby-like What She Needs, a song written for his daughter. A particular standout for me was the emotional London City, a beautiful love letter to the capital which highlighted the growl in his voice and got a huge crowd reaction, and the raw yearning of Janey. We even got treated to his ‘country alter ego’ on the melodic Beauty And The Beast!
However the thing that pulled it all together was Vance’s incredible vocal, where he showed off some impressive power and control by hitting big notes in every song, as well as some impressive falsetto moments. He also highlighted his soulful side in the lilting Hold Me In Your Arms and Moonshine, which balanced the light and dark in his voice beautifully, whilst the folk influences came through strongly on the bittersweet It Was Good and the smoky She Burns.
Vance closed the show with The Wild Swans On The Lake, which he performed accompanied by the crowd humming and clicking along. The song really showed off the warm richness of his vocal and suited the intimate space perfectly. He ended his performance by singing from the pulpit of the Union Chapel and left the stage to a thunderous standing ovation.
Overall I was completely entranced by Vance’s performance – and it really is a performance. He took the crowd on a wonderful, rambling musical journey, jam-packed with songs and stories, and it was perfectly brought together by his outstanding voice and gift for a turn of phrase. If you have tickets to see him on tour then you’re in for a treat; if you don’t, I urge you to do whatever is necessary (within reason) to get hold of them. It’s worth every penny and every second for such an incredible experience.
Set list: 1. Intro 2. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover) 3. Bangor Town 4. Upbeat Feelgood 5. Jimmy And Flowery Rosie 6. The Star Of County Down (Pogues cover) 7. Closed Hand, Full Of Friends 8. London City 9. Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye 10. Sesame Street Theme 11. What She Needs 12. Issues (Jillian Michaels cover) 13. It Was Good 14. Casanova 15. Moonshine 16. My Old Friend 17. She Burns 18. Janey 19. Beauty And The Beast 20. Fire It Up (The Silver Spear) 21. Hold Me In Your Arms 22. Coco 23. Shed A Little Light 24. Guiding Light 25. The Wild Swans On The Lake Performance date: Thursday 2nd November 2017