There seems to be a secret enclave in the music world. Set in the back rooms of venues or in the smoky corner of a pub their lives this set of people who gather around a stage to listen to pure expressions of life matched with the strumming of guitars and the beating of drums. No commercial production, no contrived mess. No hidden agenda or grand statement. Just pure music played by talented hands. While Johnny Flynn may not be the unknown artist, there is still a lovely simplicity found at his shows. Good music played by talented people. Johnny and band took the stage at the O2 Academy playing relaxing atmospheric music that lulled the crowd into a calm and enjoyable state.
As expected Johnny Flynn and the band opened the show with the type of uncomplicated folk that many have come to expect. “Raising the Dead” and “Lost and Found” streamed through the speakers, immediately creating the easy breezy atmosphere that would last throughout the night. With quick paced lyrics and dark melodic builds the songs have a sense of mystery to them that compliments the folk oriented subjects. After an instrument changed the sound became a mixture of folk and rock with songs like “The Wrote and the Writ” and “Barleycorn” among the fan favourites. The new sound of folk seems to be genre splicing as Johnny integrates rock patterns with folk instrumentals. Not being one who is tied down by a specified concept or genre, the mixture feels like a very natural depiction of the evolution of Johnny’s sound over the years.
With “Howl” Johnny slows down the pace and returns to a more centralized folk sound. The song seems to be interlaced with blues rifts, giving it a unique sound. When Johnny brings out the horn you know you are in for an unexpected treat and the song takes on mammoth proportions with the strange instrument! As the horn filled the room during the bridge it is easy to see how Johnny has become the bad boy of folk, mixing folk narratives with compelling instruments like the horn and electric guitars.
After a chat with audience about a button less shirt Johnny plays folk love song hit “Murmuration.” The unexpected lyrical content displays the incredible writing capabilities that have come to mark Johnny’s career. This unexpected lyrical composition is continued with the next hit. “In The Deepest” is a bluesy rock folk song that his dripping in metaphorical imagery. The full rock chorus displays once again the intermixing of genre instrumentals, all which produce a rather electrifying and contemplative tune. After a bit of a break due to instrumental issues and numerous cheese jokes the bands shifts back into rock folk continues while tunes like “Wandering Aengus,” “Cold Breath,” and “Hard Road.” With extended instrumentals and layered harmonies the songs are a brilliant display of the talent that each musician possesses.
With “The Water” and “Country Mile” the rhythmic folk reappears. The multi tempo tunes are a clear crowd favourite as everyone sings along loudly. Then come a string of blues-rock tunes, with the likes of “Brown Trout Blues” and “Jefferson’s Torch” as well as many others, closing out the first part of the show. For the encore Johnny appears solo with an acoustic guitar, playing “Heart Sunk Hank” and “Detectorists.” Both are hauntingly beautiful displays of the fullness of Johnny’s voice matched with his soft folk structures. The band comes back on and the crowd are treated to “Fol-de-ol” and “Eyeless in Holloway” to end the night.
The bad boy of folk Johnny Flynn crafted a beautiful and rousing set. Intermixing folk with blues and rock the music goes beyond the confines of any one genre, making it a perfect playlist for any and every occasion. The ability to curate a show that feels intimate and private in the midst of a large crowd is truly matchless. Johnny Flynn’s everyday man likeability paired with his uncanny musical skills certainly made the show one not to miss!
Review: Kylie McCormick