Folk music, with its roots stretching back long through musical history, has always had that capacity to capture people and bring their experiences together. Powerfully preaching his rousing, heartfelt ballads, perhaps Johnny Flynn is the freshest poster-boy for the British scene right now.
Squeezing into the prematurely packed church that is Trinity Centre, I could only stop and admire the array of instruments awaiting their owners on stage. The woodwind and cellos cast shadows on the crowd, practically compelling a buzz in the pre-concert conversation.
The expectant atmosphere was treated to a multi-lingual passage of ‘tropical soul’ from Holly Holden Y Su Banda. Her gratefulness to the headline act was obvious, a reaction replicated in the crowd as soon as he made his appearance. With the support singer-songwriter returning on keyboard, and Flynn’s sister Lily on the flute, there was already a distinct family feel to the night.
The first half was littered with new songs which he performed on his old rustic guitar. With credit to the foot-stomping audience Flynn was successful in Raising the Dead, helped by the hearty hymn Barleycorn.
The familiarly sing-able lyrics of ‘Lost and Found’ and the jumpy drums of ‘The Wrote & the Writ’ raised the bar further. But the mixture of old and new unearthed the singer-songwriter’s ease of transition. A moment of tranquility immediately sped up to a delivery of a raucous chorus, before once more falling to the simple strum of country guitar, suggested a comfortable control.
It was the banjo-fuelled rowdiness that belonged to his first couple of albums which really aroused the crowd. Eyeless in Holloway and Cold Bread maintained this momentum, before a spell of carefully-crafted classics again slowed it down. The Water and Country Mile relocated us to the beauty of the countryside, setting the stage perfectly for Flynn to venture out by himself for the encore. It was here, with touching renditions of Heart Sunk Hank and the theme from Detectorists, when Flynn freed the audience, as if all were united in a village hall, congregated to collectively voice our woes.
This made the return of his Sussex Wit family rigorously welcomed, finishing on a high with Tickle Me Pink and leaving the expecting audience-turned-community with even more than they bargained for.
Review: Luke McKillop