Bobby Womack’s death marks the passing of another all-time greats in soul music, but he lives on in singer/songwriters David McAlmont and Guy Davies of Fingersnap.
The duo opened performed last night in the intimate setting of St James Theatre, where the audience can enjoy their glass of wine luxuriating in the comfort of their well-upholstered chairs. It was a fitting locale reminiscent of Las Vegas golden era – only the ashtrays, guys in tuxes and ladies in gowns were missing. The duo showed they meant business with a goose-bump inducing rendition of My Funny Valentine, kicking off a two hour tour-de-force of captivating and enrapturing soul music. Using his voice with the assurance and dazzling skill of a virtuoso playing a well-aged Stradivarius, McAlmont took us from almost inaudible whispers to glass-shattering falsetto passages, in a timbre so pure, strong and emotional that the audience were putty in his hands. All this was carried by Davies’ sure-footed accompaniment: dependable, yes, but also a joy in itself, at times sounding like chiming bells and at others making the audience tap their feet with his rolling riffs.
Seasoning their set with whimsical reminiscences and tales, Fingersnap sang crowd-pleasing favourites (was that Amy Winehouse joining in the chorus of Tears Dry On Their Own from her cloud?) and their own topical material. Hey Gene was a tender ballad dedicated to Bishop Gene Robinson, while a song about the superficiality of social media had the audience t(w)itter in sheepish recognition.
At other times, Fingersnap evoked the golden age of the blues, with Bessie Smith’s saucy Kitchen Man transporting us to the decadence of the roaring twenties. Even more astonishing in its depth of feeling and technical accomplishment was Arlen and Mercer’s American Songbook Classic Blues in the Night, with McAlmont’s powerful blues slide once again making the audience’s hair stand on end. When the show ended after an encore – including Fingersnap’s latest ballad, Blackbird, it was hard to believe that well over two hours had passed. The spine-tingling performance will stay with us for a very long time.
McAlmont and Davies are thoughtful, accomplished, funny and original – and they care deeply about their loyal audience. Last night during standing ovations, it was clear the audience loved them back with just as much passion – the music had fused performers and spectators into one body. Bobby Womack would have been proud.
Fingersnap play next at London’s Le Caprice.
If you’d like to see more of David, check out this moving ballad from his collaboration with Michael Nyman, The Glare.