Ian Felice brought his timeless folk sound to Glasgow; playing at Stereo, in the heart of the city.
Felice fronted folk band The Felice Brothers for over a decade but is now going solo and is touring his debut album, In the Kingdom of Dreams.
The Felice Brothers material covered the well-trodden ground of folk music: violence, drinking and gambling, but always did so within an atmosphere of camaraderie. With Ian Felice now on his own, that upbeat fraternal energy is gone and has been replaced with something much more brooding.
Felice looks to singer-songwriter legends for influence. His quivering yet controlled, semi-adenoidal vocals reveal Bob Dylan as the most obvious of these influences. However, his lyrics are written from within the dark and heavy shadow of Leonard Cohen. ‘Will I Ever Reach Laredo’ takes you wandering through a gloomy Cohen-esque scene of disconnected despair. “Our love is a withering rose, but a rose nonetheless. And I see the glimmering light of a distant city, though I know it ain’t the one.”
The entire set is a display of melancholic Americana; disheartened odes to the state of things in both personal life and politics. Felice dedicated “10 to 1” to Halloween and also claimed that it was about “other stuff”. That glib phrase seemed to point at a deep myriad of issues that have informed the entire album.
In Memoriam once more bridged the fracture between the personal and social issues that Felice has absorbed over the past few months. This rendition being a more pared-down, simplistic version than the album version but still equally poignant. Stereo’s set-up will always be mildly troublesome. An oversized, permanent desk in the middle of the floor, a pillar slap-bang in the middle of the room and benches running perpendicular to the stage.
Ian Felice’s set managed to make all of that irrelevant.
When the show is one man and one guitar, things can either go very wrong or very right. Felice’s heartfelt, Jeff Buckley-toned tunes could have fit in any venue in town. The enclosed, limited, subterranean space of Stereo only seemed to enhance the moving melodies of the bedraggled balladeer.
Take note and take care of the most delicate songwriters we have. Ian Felice is included within this rare and valuable set of creatives, able to broadcast beauty and pathos from a difficult place.
review by Luke Hawkins