“It might be the last Fionn Regan record.” The Bray minstrel is referring to this year’s excellent The Bunkhouse Vol.I: Anchor Black Tattoo. “I have much grander ideas,” Regan then offers by way of assurance, but the message is clear; sales are down (why then, you wonder, is there not a single compact disc for sale outside afterwards?). The record-robbing public may be getting Regan down but he should take heart in what was one of the year’s most magnetic live music performances.
Previously, Regan had walked on to the small stage of the Unitarian Church and begun a keening harmonica intro for ‘Hey Rabbit’. As the music scaled up to the acoustic rafters and buttresses of the high ceiling, something spectral took hold of the sold-out attendance that refused to loosen its grip until the Bray minstrel trotted out the door at the end.
It helps that Regan’s product lends itself to such meditation. There really are few artists out there who create a world all their own the way Regan has with just six strings and a larynx, an east coast dimension inhabited by talking seas, aerosol-snorting badgers and universal truths in mystical particulars. It’s all over ‘Mizen To Malin’’s supernatural recessionary mischief, and the twisted folk reel of ‘Hunter’s Map’.
There’s more at play, however. It may have been that people weren’t swirling back and forth to the bar – there wasn’t one. Also, Regan himself was tonight a backlit silhouette. Bar his bobbing-and-weaving stage manner, that helmet-shaped barnet and (now skinnier) frame, there was little visual detail to deflect attention. Even when he skipped off stage to a piano to play ‘Vodka Sorrow’ as an encore, it was in an unlit blindspot of the church interior. Whatever the cause, no one held up their phone to make a shoddy video recording of this transfixing evening with one of Ireland’s true modern alchemists. Everyone just listened, bewitched, doing what good music wants done to it.