It’s been 4 years since I last properly saw Fionn Regan live (I did see him support Damien Rice at the Usher Hall, but 4 songs really does not constitute a proper show). I saw him in the very venue we were at on Saturday night, supporing Midlake. It’s still, to this day, one of my favourite ever gigs. That night Fionn Regan was absolutely sublime. I mean truly spell bindingly beautiful. Despite this fact and the fact that I love his work on record, my feelings before this gig were definitely mixed. I was keen to hear how the new direction, evident on the brand new record, would translate into a live venue. At the same time I was longing for him to play many of the tunes from his stunning debut ‘The End of History’. Like I said in my review of his new record ‘The Shadow Of An Empire’, the new tunes are sounding much more full on. A lot more electric in tone. Tunes I feel I need to let breathe before I can know whether I truly love the record or not. It came as no surprise that Fraser from Woodenbox, who works at Tuts and heard the soundcheck, said to me that the soundcheck was reminiscent of Bob Dylan when he went full electric. Deep down I knew the set was going to be packed with new numbers and only a sprinkling of the old. And so it proved to be.
First though, there was the small matter of the support acts. The Boy Who Trapped The Sun was first up. I had heard the name doing the rounds of late but was unfamiliar with his music. I am delighted to say that I came away with a very positive first impression of this young guy from the Isle of Lewis. He’s clearly got a fine collection of tunes by the sound of Saturdays performance and his myspace page. His style was very much in the mould of the man he was supporting but with lovely use of cello as a compliment to his excellent vocal there was enough to make him his own performer. It was a highly enjoyable set and I will be definitely be doing a bit more research, just as soon as I get a minute.
Danny and the Champions of the World should have been great. They really should have been, but unfortunately they were not. Well actually, that’s not fair, they were very tight as a band, they just disappointed me greatly. And the reason they disappointed me so greatly was that front man Danny Wilson used to be the driving force in the wonderful Grand Drive, who produced a stunning record, one of my favourites, in the form of ‘True Love and High Adventure’. So I was hoping for good things. Sadly, without the subtle harmonies of his brother Julian and lacking the simple beauty of the songs Grand Drive produced, this was a very disappointing performance. I won’t go any further because I do not like criticising artists. Lots of people would have been well into the upbeat Americana that was on offer. I was just left very disappointed because these songs were nowhere near the quality of Grand Drive. I guess I just expected more. So it’s not so much that they were bad, just that they were not as good as I was expecting or hoping for given the frontman’s pedigree.
And so to Fionn Regan. Danny and his Champions were back on stage as his backing band, so I knew that the electric vibe was well and truly on the cards. However, he chose to start with a stunning rendition of ‘Hey Rabbit’ that started quietly and built beautifully. This really set me in the right mind frame for the rest of the set. There on after the volume was cranked up regularly as he rattled through a number of more raucous numbers from the new album before settling down into versions of ‘Underwood Typewriter’ and ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’ from his debut album. Despite the stunning beauty of these numbers, newer tunes did shine through also such as ‘Violent Demeanour’ and ‘Lord Help My Poor Soul’. The latter a 1st encore finisher on which the band just went for it with Regan also adopting an electric guitar rather than his trusty acoustic and rocking out. However, it was night closer ‘Be Good Or Be Gone’ which will remain in my memory. Being my favourite Fionn Regan track, it was the perfect end to the night. There’s no doubt from this performance that when it comes to more energetic stuff Regan and his band are still finding their feet, it’s the first night of the tour after all and there are definitely creases to be ironed out. However whilst, for me, the stand out moments come when he reverts to debut album tracks, with time I’m sure the diversity which the more raucous numbers afford will make Fionn Regan performances even more special in the future. I think the new songs need time to develop in the live setting but the signs are good and when he can call upon the beauty of his quieter numbers to compliment the louder ones you truly have a set of great diversity and interest. Something any good gig should have.