LIVE: Mick Flannery – Limelight, Belfast
Whilst the night has been filled with the often hauntingly sombre sounds of his catalogue, miserable is one thing the audience are not. They are not lively party-goers but they are far from gloomy. Rather they are hypnotically awe-struck by the voice of this man from Cork.
Before Ireland’s emerging favourite son takes to the stage, Eamonn McNamee of the Northern Irish band, The Holy Innocents has the task of warm up act. During his short set, McNamee is talked over by a crowd seemingly only interested in the main event. Regardless he plays and sings wonderfully. Opening with an untitled song and throwing in a Pogues cover, McNamee makes sure he is heard. He is rewarded as the venue fills and people begin to take notice of the talent the early birds ignored.
When Mick Flannery and his band take to the stage the audience are almost instantly enraptured in the singer/songwriter’s voice for the duration. Living up to his reputation of being a man of few words, Flannery’s introduction is nothing more than a humble; “Hello. How’s it goin’”? Jumping from acoustic guitar to electric guitar to piano, Flannery showcases his musicality which remains the focus of the night, not performativity.
Yet the troubadour does open up three songs in, engaging the audience with the anecdotal tale behind The Small Fire (By The Rule, 2014). He recalls the story he was told about his grandfather’s childhood mishap with a fire in a hay barn. The desperate blame dodging of the three year old inspired a truly excellent song and line; “I lit the small fire ma, but I don’t know who lit the big one”.
The set list is made up of intense and emotionally charged stories which are narrated sometimes gently, sometimes with raw abandon and attitude. This balance is carefully maintained throughout. The sombre “Keeping Score” from 2009’s Red to Blue, is immediately contrasted by Red to Blue from the 2009 album of the same name. Flexibility is not only shown, but embraced.
What Do You See (White Lies, 2008) acts as a crescendo for the blues rock vibe this evening, receiving the best audience response of the night. Flannery’s voice is raw and explosive where it had previously been haunting and gentle. We can easily divide this set into thunderous and understated. Polar opposites artfully delivered with equally hard-hitting impact.
Nowhere is this impact more evident than in the final song which comes as the encore. Flannery takes to the piano, showing his instrumental as well as vocal range to play Safety Rope as is requested by a lone voice in the crowd. The atmosphere is intense, one of almost reverence. The deathly silence of the crowd marks respect and awe for the talent that is Mick Flannery. If this is what misery, we would all be best to embrace it. Laura Shields, GiggingNI.com