Johnny Flynn - Club Academy, Manchester
Deep in the claustrophobic confines of Club Academy, lost beneath the University of Manchester's Student Union, I joined a flock of fellow indie-folk enthusiasts to hear handsome Sussex troubadour Johnny Flynn. Now, those of us who have seen Mr Flynn in the past know full well that he is not the most gregarious of persons. For those who expect witty repartee as part of the ticket price, disappointment may await. So while banter was a bit thin on the ground, the music more than made up for it.
With a generous set encompassing songs from from all three of his albums, including September's Country Mile, Flynn and his talented band (including sister Lilly on vocals and a plethora of other instruments) delighted the throng. The real treat for me in particular was hearing the new songs live for the first time: the sweet simplicity of 'Murmuration' (the collective noun for a flock of starlings, apparently); the slow waltz of 'Einstein's Idea' with Flynn's deep voice rising effortless into a sweet falsetto. Other highlights included the uptempo fun of 'Howl' from 2010's Been Listening (with Flynn switching effortlessly between guitar and trumpet) and old favourite 'Brown Trout Blues' from 2008 debut A Larum.
As the evening progressed Flynn forgot his shyness enough to attempt a few jokes to distract the audience while band members tuned up. The jokes may have fallen flat, but his endearing awkwardness delighted the crowd.
The set closed with a string of many of his best, and best-loved, songs. Sister Lilly joined him for 'The Water' taking over of the part originally performed by Laura Marling. The stupendous 'Fol-de-Rol' (influenced, we were informed, by 70s Peruvian psychedelic music) followed shortly after, Flynn explaining they were still coming to grips with performing it live. Despite any reservations they may have had the performance was first rate, with the added treat of an extended jam at the end, the band obviously enjoying song as much as we did. The lovely 'After Elliot' from the new album and 'Eyeless in Halloway' from the debut closed the set.
Despite his retiring manner and mumbled remarks, Flynn seemed genuinely overwhelmed with the audience's warm reaction, informing us that we were "nice" which, for a man of so few words, means a lot. We thought he was nice too. Johnny Flynn then - no laughing matter but a fine songsmith and performer.
Set list: Ghost of O'Donahue, Cold Bread, The Box, Murmuration, Lost and Found, Bottom of the Sea Blues, Brown Trout Blues, Been Listening, Einstein's Idea, Howl, Barnacle Warship, Country Mile, The Wrote and the Writ, The Water, The Lady Is Risen, Fol-de-Rol, Tickle Me Pink,
After Elliot, Eyeless in Halloway