There are many artists that I never would have discovered if I had not seen them as the support act of a tour. One of those artists is Foy Vance.
Way back in December 2015, Ed Sheeran performed at AAMI Park and one of the supports on that tour was, you guessed it, Foy Vance. Falling in love with his songwriting, vocals, and overall talent, I started listening to a lot of his music. One of those albums was Foy Vance’s second studio album, ‘Joy of Nothing’ which quickly became my go to album on my playlist.
And whilst Foy Vance returned in 2015 and again in 2016 for solo shows, I have been craving to see him live again ever since. Thankfully, his return was imminent with his ‘Regarding the Joy of Nothing Tour’, a 10-year celebration to his previously mentioned second studio album ‘Joy of Nothing’.
Performing at Melbourne’s Croxton Bandroom, Foy Vance had three acoustic guitars on stage aching to be played. On the floor was an interesting looking effects bank, complete with a foot pedal organ looped in and to the left of stage, an electric baby grand piano. The stage was dimly lit, and the audience was eager for his arrival.
Foy appeared on stage to a rapturous applause and sat down at the piano opening with the first track off the ‘Joy of Nothing’ album, ‘Closed Hand, Full of Friends’. With the venue intimately lit, the moment he struck the first note, the crowd cheered. The cheers and whistles continued as Foy’s incredible vocals bellowed throughout the venue. Being on photo duties for the evening, I could hear the audience sing back during the chorus. He seamlessly transitioned into ‘Sapling’ from his 2021 album ‘Signs of Life’. The timber in his voice sent chills down my spine, and I knew I was in for a wonderful evening with his stunning voice.
Continuing on the piano with ‘Bangor Town’ from his 2016 album ‘The Wild Swan’. During the song, Foy told a story about how every town has their town drunks and the two of Bangor were Jerry and Julie. How they both had a thirst for knowledge, just that their thirst for vodka was much greater. Not only was this a prelude to the final part of the song about Jerry, but also a wonderful appetiser for the various stories we were going to hear that night.
As Foy stood up from the piano to grab a guitar, one audience member shouted, “I love you, Foy” to which Foy provided quick-witted response, “I’d need the lights up to say whether I love you or not”. I had almost forgotten how cheeky and funny he was and was excited for what other antics were to come.
Continuing his set with the title track from ‘Joy of Nothing’ and other album songs including the powerful ‘Janey’, we got a taste for what the foot organ sounded like. The best way I can describe it is like a harmonising hum in the background and I cannot say that I have ever seen one used before and it added so much depth to his performance. Another addition to Foy’s live arsenal is a loop station and various other effects. On his previous tours, Foy had a drummer with him. This time, on his own, the loop station work was fantastic.
Foy also showcased a talent I had never seen before. Using the pickups of his guitar and the effects pedals, he would sing directly into the acoustic hole of the guitar, creating a unique synth style sound. I was absolutely blown away! I have seen many different effects in my time, but never this. It was incredible!
As Foy continued to play songs from the ‘Joy of Nothing’, including ‘At Least My Heart Was Open’, he went on to explain how the album came to be. After releasing his first album, Foy shared that it took “seven long hard years, but I finally realised, nothin’ is worth writing about” and how he found solace in “enjoying the everything of nothing and the nothing of everything”, thus became the theme for the album.
Some of the highlights of the evening came from the participation of the crowd. One such track was ‘She Burns’ that included a joke intro as a country song with some patrons only realising the song was his own a few lyrics in. This joke was complete with Foy putting on his best western vocal work and lifting his leg up onto the foldbacks which had laughter ringing throughout the venue. The laughter quickly turned into a chorus as the entire venue eventually sang back.
Other highlights included ‘Feel for Me’ where the audience already knew what to sing back when Foy was setting up the song, bringing a beaming smile to his face. Each time the audience sang back, Foy would take a step back to soak it all in, and in that moment, he was the happiest man alive.
Easily the most touching moment of the evening was a heartfelt tribute to fellow Irish singer and songwriter, Sinéad O’Connor, with a gorgeous cover of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Having sadly passed away only recently this July, hearing the whole audience sing along to the iconic song with Foy got me all kinds of emotional.
Now, as amazing as the night was with plenty of singing, there was still sadly a lot of talking and murmurings heard within the audience while Foy Vance was singing. Nothing annoys me more than trying to enjoy the music and all you can hear are the conversations around you. It got to a point where it was even annoying Foy. He interjected, and exclaimed, “Sorry, is my gig getting in the way of your conversations over there?”. I am relieved that he called them out and appreciate that continued to do so for the rest of the gig as I wholeheartedly agree with what he said. I have no idea why you would pay money for a gig to just talk the whole time. It makes zero sense!
Rounding out the evening, Foy performed crowd favourite ‘You and I’, complete with more audience participation, ‘Casanova’ and ‘Shed a Little Light’. It was the latter where Foy decided to put down the guitar and get the audience to sing a harmony, allowing for his incredible vocals to shine. Finishing with an encore of ‘Guiding Light’, even joking by saying “put your hands together for Keith Urban … he’s not here, I just wanted to say it”, before Foy left the stage, he stood to the side as the crowd continued to sing the final verse of the song, with everyone in the venue only accompanied by each other’s voices.
Thinking the gig was over, I headed to the back of the venue. But the audience was still singing and I was impressed. I don’t ever recall seeing an audience continue to sing long after the artist had left the stage before. Thankfully, Foy Vance returned, just as impressed, and treated us all to one last song, a wonderful cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’.
Foy Vance is such a fantastic live act to see with plenty of great songs, heaps of audience participation, funny stories, cheeky banter, and no bullshit. His songwriting is as incredible as his vocals, and with the addition of the loop station and other effects to his live act, combined this all just elevates his already impressive musicianship. It was such a fun night! Experiencing this magnificent artist and his fans sing to each other was so endearing and it was a beautiful moment to be a part of.
Although the Australian leg of ‘Regarding the Joy of Nothing Tour’ over now, Foy Vance continues his tour internationally right up until February next year. His long awaited revisit to Australia was a joy to witness and I really hope that it doesn’t take another seven years for Foy Vance to return to our shores. Either way, I will definitely be there the next time he visits.
Foy Vance performed three dates across Australia, Brisbane at The Triffid on Tuesday November 21, Sydney at Factory Theatre on Wednesday November 22, and ending in Melbourne at The Croxton on Friday November 24.