Julie Feeney – A Delight at SubCulture

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How it’s New York: Julie Feeney played four shows at SubCulture’s ‘The New Standard’
copyright Gwen Orel

copyright Gwen Orel

series on Friday and Saturday night – a series celebrating fresh and inventive music by impassioned, boundary-pushing artists.
How it’s Irish: She is from one of Ireland’s premier counties, Galway. (Ammm … and so is this writer!)

One of the many great things about being an Irish person living in New York, is that you sometimes get to see artists who are hugely popular in Ireland perform at intimate venues here, as was the case with Julie Feeney on Saturday night.

She is an uncategorizable artist. Just when you think you can pigeon hole her, she surprises you and swoops off in her own direction.

Everything wonderful that can be said about Feeney, has already been said, by the Irish, New York and European media, as well as on this site, but here’s my take.

She is an uncategorizable artist. Just when you think you can pigeon hole her, she surprises you and swoops off in her own direction. Her base instrument is her wide ranging voice, (she sang with the National Chamber Choir of Ireland), and she is also a songwriter, composer, orchestrator and performance artist.

DSCN6917Dressed in one of her signature exotic costumes, this time without the frequent head wear changes that is her wont, looking not too dissimilar to the likes of Lady Gaga, she graced the stage on Saturday.

For the early show her ensemble had a silver theme – lycra leggings, spike heeled stilettos and tiara. Her hair and make-up were very stylized and theatrical with heavily mascaraed lashes curved long over piercing eyes. The diva-like aesthetic seems almost like a camouflage when Feeney speaks to the audience (which she does a lot of), in her soft Galway lilt and typical Irish self deprecating style.

“Thanks very much for coming”,

she said,

“I thought no-one would come”.

Supported by four musicians, as well as a vocalist, Feeney took the audience on a whirlwind evening of music and song – with a large helping of theatricality thrown in. Her music runs the gamut of genres including orchestral and pop without ever fitting comfortably into one and her work contains a sense of playfulness that brings out a childlike joy in the listener.

Her music runs the gamut of genres including orchestral and pop without ever fitting comfortably into one and her work contains a sense of playfulness that brings out a childlike joy in the listener.

At times one feels that the audience is not quite sure where she is going to go next, physically DSCN6919or artistically, as she moves around the entire space as if there is no separation between artist and showgoer, while her fluid voice glides between beautiful, heartfelt songs (“Grace”) and satirical, playful songs (“Roving Eye Guy”).

But wherever she goes, you want to go with her, because you know you are going to have a good time.

Her lyrics are deep, wise and witty and she is not afraid to write about difficult feelings such as in her favorite song of the moment (she says it constantly changes), ‘Life’s Nudge’: “Challenging times straining the head, puzzling the heart, a tumbling head. Puzzling days, puzzling dreams, treading water just to try to breathe”.

On her third CD, Clocks, she writes about her ancestors, and and has said in interviews, that she believes she is channeling their experiences. “Dear John’,”she told us, is written about her grandparents who waited for a full moon to go out on their bicycles to visit the neighbors. It is a catchy tune that Feeney gently coached the audience to sing a few lines of harmony with her and had us singing along until it’s abrupt end, when she pulls you out of any element of comfort you might slide into and just makes you smile.

DSCN6932Galway Boy” is a beautiful love song which she dedicated to the women in her family line. It has been playing on repeat in my head since Saturday.

Her first opera has been commissioned and we were treated to a musical interlude from it while Feeney took a seat in the front row of the audience. Loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’, which Feeney said she chose because she wanted to write an opera about an inanimate object and something that flies'(!).  “BIRD” is something to look forward to next year and hopefully it will grace these shores sooner rather than later. (Editor’s note: the work-in-progress played at the Galway Arts Festival last summer).
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Copyright 2014 New York Irish Arts
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