Johnny Flynn - Deaf Institute, Manchester

Hidden off a main road near Manchester University, the Deaf Institute is deceptively small looking from the outside - but inside hides three floors of bars and venue space. Although the top floor was full for his sell out show, Johnny Flynn also seemed a little small, as if intimidated by the fairly large audience squeezed into the room.

In leaving his band The Sussex Wit at home, Flynn had to fly solo and his attempts to engage the crowd between songs felt awkward, as if he was talking because he felt he had to - rather that necessarily wanting to. One particularly dedicated fan declared that they would be at all of Flynn's upcoming shows but it was a rare moment of proper feedback.

Other than a couple of mumblings about an upcoming album and some more tour dates, Flynn was much more comfortable just singing - which is clearly where he shines. His smoky vocals appear to be fashioned on traditional folk, displaying a confident maturity far beyond his years and making old favourites such as ‘The Box’, ‘Been Listening’ and ‘Tickle Me Pink’ no worse for their stripped down nature. The set was scattered with new material (which Flynn admitted had only been played in front of a few people before) and although he got lost on couple of the songs, he was quick to recover.

Without the distraction of his usual support, it was hard to take your eyes from Flynn's guitar work, his fingers a blur across the frets as he sought to replicate the intricate arrangements of his full band. His effort was rewarded on the last song, with the crowd deigning to - finally - sing along.

There's no denying Flynn is a talented young songwriter but suffers with a lack of stage presence when performing solo, something that definitely contributed to the rather passive nature of the crowd. There's no shame in needing a little backup now and again so let's hope next time he's in town, Flynn remembers to pack his Wit.

Last updated: 06/08/2018 21:54:11

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