Finbar Furey, April 2018, Islington Assembly Hall, Islington, London, United Kingdom

Finbar Furey

Monday 9th April 2018

Islington Assembly Hall, Islington, London, United Kingdom 

Chris Patmore

It isn’t often – and for this audience not nearly often enough – that Irish singer-songwriter Furey plays live in London. When he and his three accompanists take the stage dead on time at 8 pm, a wave of warm applause erupts. Finbar’s demeanour does almost strangely mirror that of the late comedian Dave Allen. He sits down, makes everyone in the room and the circle relax within seconds, keeps his voice soft and calming and pretty much does what he fancies for the next couple of hours. The stories spill out of him as he starts riffing the material. His band tiptoe in and then firm up the song or instrumental he has opted to commence.

Veteran he may be, but Furey’s instrumental prowess is undiminished. Much of what he plays is genuinely thrilling and always melodic but with that element of exploration that makes this set into quite a sonic journey. His tin whistle / flageolet just dances out from the stage, sprightly and beguiling. His handling of the pipes, peppered with tales of travels and Hell’s Angels makes every sigh and waver count, unhurried and skybound as each tune progresses. The banjo is the one stringed instrument I haven’t owned – probably because each note plucked decays immediately – however the steady melodic tumble attained by Furey does really suit so many of his songs and song choices. Especially when he nods in the fleet fiddle for a solo. It transports you to the Ring Of Kerry, the road into Limerick and maybe the most peaceful place I ever visited, Kinsale down on the coast…

Furey’s guitar work meanwhile is steady, steadfast and nimble. Suspensions and movable chord shapes keep the cadences interesting and fluid. Sometimes he can hardly contain his delight at the full-blooded sound he is attaining as he plays. The keyboard work by Peter Eades takes in synth washes, sustained chords and the odd sparkling piano break with jazzy motifs threaded therein. The bowed and plucked stand-up bass by Paul O’Driscoll adds an almost filmic vibe to the tunes as they unfold.

Of course, Furey has a new album out – fully reviewed on this site – and does include a couple of songs from it. But most of what we hear tonight are in essence Greatest Hits and many intro’s spark instant applause and recognition. Memorable selections included ‘The Ballad For George Best’, the emotional ‘The Old Man’, ‘Paddy Dear’ and ‘The Galway Shawl’ amongst others.

A half-hour break mid-show means we cannot stay and see the very end of the set, due to travel limitations, but the show had transported us to many tuneful scenarios.

Oh at some points, the chap seated in front of us was singing along. Usually that would be annoying of course, but it was soft and he was Ralph McTell! No complaints there, then.

Pete Sargeant

All photos credited to Chris Patmore

(Thanks go to Asher, Ethan, Sue and Finbar and crew)

You can read  our review of Finbar Furey’s latest album ‘Don’t Stop Now’ which is out now on BMG here: http://bit.ly/2GwNlCX

For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2Irsfm1