We Get Out – Foy Vance, Lee Rogers, Gareth Dunlop at the Birchmere, 5.10.22

[First, some background…] Not sure if it’s ongoing Covid concerns, growing older, or a low-grade depressive ennui, but it’s so much easier these days to just stay home. I planned to attend a picnic/graduation celebration yesterday but when a storm came up, I was content – no, delighted! – to blow it off, lay on the bed near an open window and listen to the wind and rain as it rumbled through my neighborhood. A lovely sensory experience, better than a 3D movie!

As much as I love live music, the concerts I’ve attended since 2022* began are hardly a handful, a trifecta of Couldn’t Miss Personal Favorites – Harry Styles, Courtney Barnett, and Billie Eilish. So, when a personable publicist (redundant?) whom I’ve only ever dealt with through email called me – on the actual phone! – last Monday to invite me to see one of her artists the following night, my first inclination was another “no, thanks.”

[*CORRECTION: I saw Harry last year. Guess I’ve been so consumed with all the recent hubbub, and the Coachella shows, I lost track of time. Love will do that to you.]

Not entirely superfluous shot of King Harry; he’s one of the few concerts I’ve seen in the past year. And get this – Harry follows Foy Vance on Twitter!

But it was such a nice chat, commiserating with the PR gal over how hard it is to get writing assignments (me) or coverage (her) these days. She didn’t care that all I might offer is this humble blog, nor did I promise to write anything at all. However sweet the offer, I believe that most last-minute show invitations are to fill seats so the artist knows that an effort was made.

I said I’d check out the guy’s music and get back to her.  Then my husband reminded me that I don’t get many of these invitations since my columns at Washington Post and Examiner/AXS got cancelled. So I asked my plus-one buddy, Sally, a high-school English teacher/poet/guitarist/pianist, who tells me whether the playing meets an actual musician’s standards, if she was interested in a spontaneous musical night out. She visited the artist’s website and came back: “Listened and really liked!”

This man is not as scary as he looks.

[And now we get to the music. Finally. I hear you sigh.] A singer/songwriter from the Northern Ireland town of Carrickfergus (gotta love those names) Lee Rogers just released his third official release, Gameblood. The album cover is deceptive, all brooding menace with blood red accents. But while he’s a big bear of a man, rich with tattoos (he’s a talented ink artist as well) there’s a gentle giant aspect to his music, the songs tender as well as tough. The album reflects folk influences like John Martyn and Bon Iver, with a touch of Keb Mo’s bluesy Americana. Though I didn’t catch it on the studio set, Roger’s live sound also gave me a Van Morrison vibe (without the messy anti-vaccine crazy). My favorite tune live, “Silent Song,” has a catchy chorus (“The road to heaven runs through hell”) and a stylish animated video that I can share here.

The album was produced in Belfast by another Irish singer/songwriter, Gareth Dunlop, and has a track featuring vocals from yet one more, Foy Vance, a veteran musician who earned new attention when Ed Sheeran endorsed him. (Not to be confused with Vance Joy, the guy who sings “the closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that I’ve ever seen” on the track “Riptide.”)

Gareth Dunlop opened the night.

These Irishmen are longtime pals and collaborators, so an American tour featuring the trio was a logical adventure. Dunlop opened solo with a very brief set, but returned later to play support in Vance’s band and sing lead on a song during the encore. Rogers also retuned at show’s end to duet with Vance on a song they recorded for Gameblood, “Barefoot in the Basement.” The bonhomie was obvious.

And so, thanks to the pretty persuasion of my new publicist pal, I got my lazy butt out the door and had a most pleasant evening. I’m not going to say it had the wild energy of a stadium show, nor the thrill of seeing a long-followed favorite in the flesh, but not every concert has to be a Major Event. With three accomplished talents onstage, I had the musical equivalent of a relaxing drive with pros at the wheel, and the sound scenery was great all the way.

Confession: I knew little about Foy Vance before this show, but he’s an Irish legend.

Since I’m not sure where you, my dear reader, actually live, here’s the rest of the tour schedule, if you care to check it out:
5/18 – JAMES K. POLK THEATER, NASHVILLE TN
5/20 –  THE CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
5/21 –  ATHENAEUM THEATRE, CHICAGO, IL
5/26 –  NEPTUNE THEATRE, SEATTLE, WA
5/27 –  ALADDIN THEATRE, PORTLAND, OR
5/31 –  REGENT THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CA

Final Note:  I’m fully aware that issues of true substance abound these days, and a music blog is a trivial, maybe even self-indulgent, pursuit. But in these times of war, racial violence, and attacks on female autonomy, music is my happy place, and I hope we can enjoy a few moments together to celebrate it before we return to the fight.

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