When State met Fionn Regan a few weeks ago, we found him to be utterly and inarguably charming. Disarmingly so, in fact, though evidently not quite to the extent that he can sell out a sizable Dublin venue on the same day as a big Six Nations rugby match. Still, the two-thirds-full hall that greets openers -Danny and the Champions of the World’ is a hushed place, and Danny Wilson’s crew does little to wake them up. The Londoners have a hint of the upbeat, heart-strumming singer songwriter to them, despite having a sizable band on stage, and come across as earnest, catchy and upbeat, yet not particularly unique. It’s the kind of pop-tinged indie that you would see week in week out, but can still happily put down a pint or two in front of.
Especially, that is, when we’re waiting for Fionn Regan, who has no such originality issues. Over the past few years, Fionn’s become a well-deserved staple of the Irish music scene, and a man crammed with off-the-wall ideas who can be relied upon to produce. While his audience interaction is minimal – limited almost exclusively, in fact, to introducing the impressive musicians around him – his songs are playful and poetic, telling stories and taking the lyrically involved listener on a journey into the deep and colorful with every new chord. The story telling aspect of Regan’s performance is essential, and the crisp sound of this particular show – allowing the audience to pick out every word – is a key element. Fionn can happily flit from one track to the next much like an imaginative poet reading at a recital; one with a lively, geek-cool on-stage persona that’s almost as unique and enchanting as the bizarre metaphors he habitually reels out in interview.
While Fionn’s second album The Shadow of an Empire has failed to capture the sales figures – or perhaps even the public’s imagination – in the same way as his Mercury-nominated debut, as a live prospect it adds considerable weight. Faster tracks like ‘Protection Racket’ (missing the -reception bell’ live, but no worse for it) and the fantastically dark ‘Genocide Matinee’ are the on-stage highlights, pumping up the crowd in a way that his older and arguably subtler work struggles to match. As Fionn quick-fires his way through half a dozen tracks with barely a break, it’s hard to see how such an engaging character doesn’t win still more acclaim: he’s much like a Pete Doherty without the press-courting drug problem, and armed with an amply more engaging live show. Track after track of lyrics that could pass for competent short stories and a delivery that’s as oddball charismatic as they come are Regan’s key selling points: when he plays like he did tonight, song after gentle and engaging song, State could happily watch the Bray-native strum and shake his cymbals until the sun comes up.
Photo: Christine Redmond