ENTERTAINMENT — 04 December 2013

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Foy Vance, Koko

COUNTY Down singer-songwriter Foy Vance is an interesting proposition. The son quite literally of a preacher man, he spent his formative years in America and, perhaps as a result, his performances (punctuated by good-humoured craic with the audience, whom he calls ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’) have a gospel-like urgency to them.

At London’s Koko last Thursday night as part of his Joy of Nothing tour, Northern Irish accents seemed to be everywhere, as was a notable outbreak of young men in plaid shirts and peak caps, imitating the singing star’s understated, trademark style.

The moustachioed Foy’s star is, after many years’ graft finally on the rise and his warm reception at a busy Koko was further confirmation of his standing. Unlike previous gigs, he wasn’t as angry against London as he can be, bantering with the crowd up in the balconies and playing the proud dad as he invited daughter Ella on to play the drum on one track.

As for the music it’s powerful, it’s heartfelt and his tight little band offers just the right level of accompaniment to his searing guitar and gut-wrenching vocals. Highlights were an energetic Janie, the plaintive Feel For Me and the finale as is tradition was the gorgeous Guiding Light, one often covered by his pal Ed Sheeran. He walks off while the crowd is still singing like a gospel choir to Guiding Light and Bruno Mars’ Locked Out Of Heaven. Some concert-goers were still humming it wistfully on the tube home.

Foy was named the inaugural winner Northern Ireland Music Prize last month for his album Joy of Nothing (but in true showbiz fashion couldn’t be there to pick it up), beating Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody’s new country outfit, Tired Pony, Two Door Cinema Club, And So I Watch You From Afar and others to the prize.

His growing fan-base may call for Koko-sized venues these days, but something of Foy’s raw power gets a little lost in a place this big. You almost wish you were seeing him in the intimate spaces he was playing a few years ago – but he’s still a force to be reckoned with live, and if the new number he tested out on us, about a man’s love letter to his woman (“I want you to be the last thing I see”) is a sign of things to come, then bring it on.

By Shelley Marsden

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