Foy Vance fills the souls of those in the Shepherd’s Bush Empire with an emotionally charged and captivating high-energy performance in London.
Over the years, Foy Vance has steadily grown his fan base following the release of several EP’s and his independently produced debut album Hope. At the same time, he has relentlessly toured the UK and further afield, as well as joining many chart-topping acts on the road including the likes of Sir Elton John, Ed Sheeran, and Josh Groban to name but a few. Vance’s sophomore album, The Wild Swan, was released earlier this year via Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records label.
Opening tonight’s proceedings is Northern Irish singer/songwriter Ryan McMullan. Imagine the style of Foy Vance/Ed Sheeran mixed with a sprinkling of Paul Rodgers (Bad Company/Free) and you wouldnâ€™t go too far wrong. McMullan has a soulful, classic rock inspired sound, and has a huge vocal range which sounds ever so sweet when he hits the high registers.
McMullan impresses on the acoustic guitar throughout the first three songs of his set, one of which was “Suzanna”, co-written by Foy Vance himself. Ryan then uses the keyboard for a rousing and emotional cover of John Waites “Missing You”. The crowd are warmed up by this point.
“Ghosts” and “You Donâ€™t Dance” from McMullan’s A Winters Coat EP completes a beautiful trio of songs performed on the keyboard. McMullan is as equally as comfortable on the keyboard as he is on the guitar, to which he returns for the remainder of the set. The whole of the Shepherds Bush Empire is elevated and fired up to join in and sing along to “Holding Me Down”. McMullan ends the set with a haunting a capella performance of “The Lakes of Pontiartrain”, which sounds much like a traditional Irish folk song.
After the interval, Foy Vance and band, which features Paul â€˜Hammyâ€™ Hamilton (drums/percussion), Conor McCreanor (bass/double bass), Colm McClean (guitars) ease us in gently. Vance begins his set on the keyboard with the slow but haunting “Be Like You Belong” from Vanceâ€™s latest album, The Wild Swan.
Vance powers his way through “Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye”. His soulful, gravelly, whiskey-soaked sounding power vocals resonate throughout the room. A few more songs performed with Vance on Keys culminates with “Bangor Town”, written about Vanceâ€™s hometown in Northern Ireland. The atmosphere builds as Vanceâ€™s presence and connection to his audience is felt throughout the room. As well as providing music that is deeply felt, another trait Vance has when performing is his quick-witted, dry, sarcastic sense of humour, and his wonderful ability for storytelling.
Changing to the guitar for the song, “Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution”, Vance tells the story of how he recently played near the home of American linguist, philosopher Noam Chomsky. Foy tells of an e-mail exchange he had with Chomsky saying he had written a song with reference to him, and as he was performing nearby he would love if he and his wife would attend as a guest to his show. Vance continues by saying Chomsksy sent him the most kind hearted and eloquent “fuck off” he had ever received, but he did reply which was something.
“Casanova” highlights how well the band play with Vance, who has great chemistry here with guitarist McLean, whilst Hammy and McCreanor tightly keep things together in the rhythm section throughout. This all combines for a beautiful extended jam.
Vance highlights what a horrible year we have had with the deaths of legends in music, some of which Vance had looked up to. As Vance begins to cover “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, the room at this moment became one and completely connected as the audience sings along in unison. It is a poignant moment and brings a tear to many in the room.
As Vance performs the first single from The Wild Swan, “She Burns”, the energy in the room is electric. The show continues with a powerful full band version of “Like An Animal”, which is one of the best songs Vance has written that somehow never was put onto an album. The crowd hang on every word of “Feel For Me Baby” before Vance slows things down with the beautiful and intimate “Burden”.
The main set is brought to a close with the high-spirited and moving “Guiding Light”, which has everyone singing along, including Ryan McMullan who returns to the stage to sing with Vance. This is the most beautiful moment of the night.
Encore opener “Upbeat Feelgood” is vibrant and joyous, with the loudest crowd interaction of the night. Vance ends the show with the gentle “The Wild Swans On The Lake”. Delicate guitar, bass and percussion compliment Vanceâ€™s warm, Celtic storytelling.
Foy Vance has a huge amount of soul, presence, and is a unique talent. To watch Vance play live is moving, mesmerising and captivating. You leave a Foy Vance show feeling emotional, connected, elated and uplifted. Vance is beginning to play the larger venues in the UK. Arenas will inevitably be on the horizon soon.