Whelan's Live, Dublin Ireland
Wednesday 24th February 2016
Make no mistake, all I need is a glorious and slick new album full of emotive power ballads and high tempo upbeat catchy dance tunes , so it is with eager anticipation that I wait to hear how these songs will transpire in the live environment, as Louisa Rose Allen aka "Foxes" takes to the Whelan's stage in Dublin. Having just released All I Need on 05 Feb 2016, tonight’s performance is only the 2nd show after Belfast last night, and both these shows are a warm up for Foxes UK tour which commences shortly. The new album manifests itself in the art of love and deals almost exclusively with this human element of love lost, gained and everything in between. As with the previous record there are 16 songs on this disc which now gives Foxes plenty of material to choose from in the live context.
Not knowing what to expect, I enter the small Whelan's pub on Bexford Street, Dublin and ask the barman “Isn’t Foxes supposed to be playing here tonight” to which he replies “Yes she is. The entrance is just around the corner.” As I make my way through the corridor, a door opens to a stage set up in a tiny room half the size of the Oxford Art Factory and I calculate that at best this room would cater for 150 - 200 people. The stage is elevated about 1 metre above the dance floor with no stage barricades separating performers from public. A simple black curtain stares back at me as the only visual backdrop and the stage is barely big enough to hold the drum kit, the keyboard station and guitars, but hold them it does.
Foxes takes to the stage dressed in a white T-shirt and her band members follow soon after dressed in simple black attire which suits this environment, for this show is a stripped back affair from the visual perspective. There will be no costume changes, no need for costume changes as this is an old fashioned pub gig which is all about the music and having a good time.
The Rise Up intro gets proceedings underway and 30 seconds later morphs into Body Talk (the opening single release off the new LP) which is a good choice as bodies start to move to the groove of the music. By now this room is jammed packed with so many patrons that this is seriously overcrowded. My personal space is encroached upon by elbows, boobs and beers in the back that threaten to get spilt. The Whelan's crowd now moves as one and takes on a life of its own, and as Holding on to Heaven starts to play you have no choice but to get swept along for the ride.
As a performer this intimacy must be both exhilarating and frightening all at the same time. The front row of patrons are squeezed up against the stage so close that they could reach out and touch any part of Foxes body, which from a security viewpoint must be a big risk. As Better Love finishes, Foxes screams out “F**k this is insane”. There is a broad smile written upon her face that shows the adrenalin that is running through her veins probably masking the fear. “I’m sorry if I fall into you” she adds as she tries to avoid getting i-phones or over exuberant hands in the air from patrons in her face.
One of the things I have been looking forward to is to see how Foxes delivers the slower songs on the record and her live version of On my Way is mesmerizing. I am totally transfixed and spellbound by her delivery and impressed with the raw emotion and strength and power that she is able to produce. The lyrics of this song must be particularly hard to sing and she does it with such honesty and conviction. The other slower songs in the set Sorry, Youth and Devil Side are also particularly good and are essentially acoustic in nature showcasing her fine voice.
Cruel is a great new song with a sexy hook and gets everyone jostling again. For this song the backdrop curtain has a few stars projected on to it just to change the visual aesthetic a little. The lighting show tonight is basic, which works, and a blue and pink hue are the most common throughout the evening.
Many of the new songs from All I Need feature prominently in this show and Scar, Money, Feet don’t fail me now and Amazing keep the dancing going and are all catchy feel good dance songs that work well in the live setting. Foxes takes time to point out during the intro to Shaking Heads that it is her mum that we can hear on the recorded intro and explains that she likes to involve other family members in the recording process.“I don’t have much control over the records but I have control when I am playing live” she says. “I wrote a song called Light me up which couldn’t fit on my new record but I like it and am going to play it for you now. Hope you like it”. I am again impressed with this new song and it also has a great hook and is melodic like the others.
Songs from Foxes debut album also get a look in and Glorious and Youth appear to be crowd favorites. Amazing is the last song to be played before Foxes says goodnight and exits the stage.
Having had enormous success with Zedd and their song Clarity, you would expect that no show can be completed without playing this superb song. So sure enough this is the 1st track out of the encore performance and an extended singalong with the crowd is just the perfect way to round out tonight’s show. Because the venue is so small and intimate, when the crowd sings along, I watch Foxes being totally swept away by the emotion of the moment and this is really beautiful, for it must bring her immense joy when the voices singing her song back to her are deafening.
Finally there is just one more song for tonight, Let go. One and a half hours have passed so quickly that I have forgotten about the discomfort of being packed in so close. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
Foxes is an immeasurably talented singer and one that will certainly grow in stature and confidence. Now to see if we can convince her to bring this show down under so I can go again.
see more photos here