This year’s debut from For Those I Love – aka David Balfe – is an album like no other.
The record is a collage of dance music, poetry, and visual art all centred around the tragic death of Balfe’s childhood friend and longtime musical collaborator, Paul Curran. The album itself is a wonderful tribute to Balfe’s friend, where Balfe splices together voice notes and clips of their time together into a tapestry of love, grief, pain, and anger.
When Balfe stepped onto the Deaf Institute’s music hall, he brought this passion and emotion into a room that welcomed him with love and matched Balfe’s energy throughout. Balfe has garnered a cult following of passionate fans: For Those I Love was created as a creative project of love and loss, so watching David perform these tracks is incredibly touching and powerful.
The room is an old and beautiful one, The Deaf Institute’s high ceilings and wooden seats add to the sense of occasion, as does the support act. Jordan O’Leary sang a short set, accompanied by a banjo and the heart of a lion, his injection of Irish pride set the scene nicely before Balfe’s arrival.
For Those I Love’s set consisted of David, a mic, and a projector. The stage is covered with flowers before Balfe’s arrival, which is prompt – the album plays out in order, to a backdrop of graphics, text, and lyrics as well as videos of Curran and Balfe living their lives together. It’s an emotional, gut-punch of a live show, and as a punter at a gig like this, I feel like a voyeur into Balfe’s grief process. Watching David, his emotion is apparent – watching the footage of him and Curran as we do and baring his soul for the Manchester crowd, who reply with the love and passion that Balfe deserves.
As this plays out, it is impossible to tear yourself away from David; who, for all of his musical talent, deserves as much praise for his lyrics: For Those I Love is the perfect score to this tribute to a friend. The electronica and dance grooves echo with a deep melancholy- people dance and move to the music, but most are entranced by David – his music really, genuinely touches people in the most incredible way, with people dancing, hugging and crying throughout.
The show closes out with ‘Leave Me Not Love’, which brings this whole experience home in a staggering closing number. The lyrics remind you to love your mates, and people in the crowd of all ages, embrace their mates with genuine love that is sometimes difficult to put into words. It’s not clear whether For Those I Love will continue to tour, which gives this, the final gig of the run, a truly magical sense.
This was without a doubt a live experience that I will never forget and Balfe so clearly gave the show everything he had- I feel privileged to have been in the Deaf Institute last night and I implore you to check out the album if you haven’t.