If you’re a regular visitor to Belwood then you’ll know that my all time favourite artist is Foy Vance. He’s the artist I’ve seen the most, and the first time I saw him still remains the best gig I’ve ever been to. Several brilliant shows later and I was unsure of what to expect from my latest live experience. Firstly down to it being in the Albert Hall; while it’s one of the most beautiful venues in the country, it was a much less intimate setting than I was used to. Secondly in terms of the setlist; Foy released two albums in 2019, one I loved and one that I really couldn’t connect with, and I was curious to see which record would take precedent. The only way to find out was to take my place front and centre and see what Foy had in store this time around.
I have only two complaints about the evening, the first of which was that the gig was seated. It was more uncomfortable sitting on the hard folding chairs all night than it would have been standing up. I have no complaints as far as the opening act Beoga were concerned however. Blending traditional Irish folk, complete with fiddle, bodhrán and accordions, with a few more contemporary flourishes, they were the perfect way to start the night. The drummer had some great banter with the crowd and musically they were a tight ensemble but still managed to keep the atmosphere light. Though primarily an instrumental outfit, they had guest vocalist Niall McCabe feature on a few tracks. This guy was an absolute bolt from the blue, an unexpectedly astounding singer, and a name that I will definitely listen out for in future.
Speaking of amazing voices, with it being a few years since I’d last seen him, I’d forgotten just how much Foy raises the bar in a live setting. I will never stop being impressed by the power and passion of his live vocals, even the somewhat lacklustre tracks from To Memphis were given new life. Speaking of which, it soon became clear which new album’s material took precedent; honestly, neither of them. Fan favourites from The Wild Swan made up the majority of the setlist, with a fair chunk of the night dedicated to brand new songs, which really kept the crowd on their toes and made the show feel special. The 4 or 5 new tracks contained what I found to be some of his best material in years, so I’ll be holding out for them making an appearance on a record further down the line. The most memorable being a dark acoustic number, still a work in progress, that he performed as a mash-up with ‘FourFiveSeconds’, and a piano driven “apology song” that mixed things up with some grungy riffs towards its conclusion.
Foy spent a fair bit of time at the keys, a lot more than previous times I’ve seen him, and it really helped you grasp just how much his playing has improved. I had wondered whether the larger setting would have meant a bigger band and fuller arrangements. While Beoga joined for a couple of numbers, for a bit of raucous rock’n’roll with ‘Casanova’ and ‘Wind Blows Chloe’ that got people up and dancing, I’m pretty sure Foy could captivate a venue twice the size just singing on his own. My only other complaint of the night was the crowd itself. Too much mindless back-chat between songs for my liking. As far as the man himself is concerned however: faultless. Having set the bar so high with previous gigs I was worried how this one would compare. He was as incredible as ever. My thoughts kept turning to the folks next to me, seeing him for the first time, and how it would likely be a night they’d never forget.