Communion Belfast Review...
Foy Vance, Southern, Captain Cameron, Queer Giraffes
The Black Box is a haven of sanity this St. Patrick's Night, with a sold-out Communion Belfast showcasing four local acts all highlighting different shades of the folk/singer-songwriter ilk.
Queer Giraffes kick off the night's festivities. They're an odd act, ever shrinking and expanding with their fluid membership, the only full-time member being Steven Toner who writes the songs and 'feels the feelings' man. Tonight they're a six piece, all-seated and engaging in an easy cameraderie onstage that makes it apparent they actually care about each other. Toner narrates his tales of woe wistfully, with a world-weary air and the audience pays attention from the start. Close female harmonies are provided by Katie Richardson and Cara Cowan which adds something extra to the already enjoyable whisky-fuelled tones.
Captain Cameron represent a less modern, less tongue in cheek kind of melancholy. The live show consists of three nondescript chaps. Nondescript that is, until they start to play. The frontman begins alone, the other two members looking a little like spare parts - a look that continues throughout the set - a clear second fiddle to David Clements who has the sadness and intensity of a songwriter twice his age and experience.
Maybe it's their youthful appearance, the whistling or the fact that they introduce themselves as brother and sister but Southern come across as a bit, well, twee. Sound problems plague the beginning of their set and although the band are aware of this and plough on admirably, the fact that the female vocal can't be heard for about half the set takes its toll. It's ultimately pleasant but certainly not heartbreaking the way the other acts have the potential to be.
There's a certain amount of arrogance that comes with playing a sold-out venue and it has to be said that Foy Vance is arrogant, before he even sings he's admonishing the audience to be quiet, a theme which he returns to again and again throughout the night. He has the right to be demanding though, as he gives the audience everything he has, playing for over two hours. He reveals his vocal range a little at a time, his stooped posture making it look like every note is wrenched from him, that every note is his highest, his last until he moves higher.
He's a master of theatrics, his work at the loop station showcasing this most effectively. Beginning acoustically he creates an entire funk/soul band using looped vocals, keyboard and guitar with such fierce intensity, that it's like watching a creative nervous breakdown on stage.
It isn't all serious though, as stage banter is punctuated by a bizarre prank phone call to an audience member's friend. He puts hecklers in their place and gives the folks their money's worth, playing the hits and following the crowd outside afterwards to join them in an acapella chorus of 'Guiding Light'.
For an audience to be held [mostly] transfixed for over two hours by a solo male with guitar? That's something pretty special.