Foy Vance Conquers &Union

13597aThe true merit of any musician is not measured in a recording studio, it is measured from the minute they step onstage until the minute they step off.

As a performer it can be intensely nerve wracking, especially if you’re going up there alone in front of a crowd a hundred thousand miles from home that knows you for one or two songs if you’re lucky.

But if Irish singer / songwriter Foy Vance was nervous before he went onstage at &Union in Cape Town last Friday night to deliver one of the best performances I’ve heard this year, he sure as hell didn’t show it.

From the first few chords of the gospel / blues anthem “I Got Love” to the audience singing the chorous of the soulful acoustic ballad “Guiding Light” over and over, long after Foy himself had stopped playing, his performance was nothing short of inspirational.

It was interesting to note that, over the course of the evening, everyone I spoke to about his set professed to not only know exactly who he is, but were also proud to say they owned at least one or two of his albums.



Whether this was true or not I’ll never know, but either way it shows that his music struck a chord with the audience gathered at &Union on Friday, though to be honest I could have guessed that just by watching their reaction to his set.

His set was split down the middle between his own material and his favourite covers which included the Paul Simon track “You Can Call Me Al”, one of my favourite Hendrix songs of all time “Crosstown Traffic”, the Michael Jackson classic “Billy Jean”, the most soulful rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” I’ve ever heard and even a cover of the long lost Joan Osborne song “What If God Was One Of Us?”

But for me, the highlight of his set was hearing him play “Hold Me In Your Arms” which, I found out later is one of his original songs. There’s something in the stark honesty of that song, the way it builds slowly to it’s howling, heartfelt climax that tears me up every time I hear it and Friday night was no exception.

Looking around at the sea of happy faces laughing at his jokes, clapping and singing along to his songs and demanding he go back onstage for an encore that ended up lasting another 40 minutes, I couldn’t help but feel like for that brief moment, everything was right in the world.

The wind whipped through the trees on either side of Foy as he played and his voice rang out through the streets for a five block radius from Hout Street to Wale and Loop Street to Buitengracht. The mic was his pulpit and we were his choir, the holy spirit blowing all around us while we danced and drank and celebrated being ALIVE brother!



After Foy finished up at &Union, we jumped in the car and hit the Shack to shoot the breeze and play some pool (he kicked my ass 2 games to 1, but we teamed up to play some challengers and mopped the floor with them).

I got to know the man a little better over a couple of rounds of drinks and can honestly say his talent is outweighed only by his humility and his soulfulness by his quick wit, which is sharp as a tack and had us laughing until the early hours of the morning.

It’s no surprise to me that his songs have continued to ring out inside my head from after I shook his hand and bade him farewell sometime around 3 on Saturday morning right up until now as I struggle to put the experience of meeting him and watching him play into words.

Suffice to say, Foy taught me something I consider extremely valuable, that what I previously thought was gospel – that the true merit of a musician is measured from the minute he steps onstage until the minute he steps off – isn’t actually true.

The true merit of a musician extends far beyond his performance. If the man himself doesn’t weigh up to the man onstage, his authenticity of both his character and his music becomes compromised.

Foy is a great musician because he is a great person. The two go hand in hand, and I only hope that his career continues to grow from strength to strength in the coming years and that sometime in the future, at a nameless bar on a nameless night, our paths may cross again.




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