Johnny Flynn (3 stars)

Johnny Flynn

Nice'n'Sleazy, Glasgow, Thu 22 Oct 2009

Supporting London troubadour Johnny Flynn, Anna Calvi is an exciting prospect as she takes the stage - all red lipstick, silk blouse and stiletto heels, picking out an echoing guitar solo that gets faster and more intricate as it goes on. It's an intriguing start, but one let down by the weakness of her voice when she eventually opens her mouth to sing. The overall sound is reminiscent of live solo recordings of Jeff Buckley, but sadly the songs aren't nearly as engaging, either lyrically or melodically, as those of that particular tortured genius.

Johnny Flynn, on the other hand, couldn't be more engaging, equipped with a knowing but sweet and self-effacing stage manner, and storytelling songs that have the inspirational imaginative power to lead you to start weaving your own made-up tales about the faces in the crown. The songs are poetic and rich: image after image is pinned together into a warm, engulfing blanket of faintly nostalgic folky goodness.

It's just Johnny and his guitar tonight, which leaves a little lacking for those drawn in by the album's driving fiddle, thumping drums and gorgeous vocal harmonies, but there's still enough variation to hold the attention. Charmingly, he seeks to dispel any monotony by starting the encore with a poem, a sweetly schoolboyish maritime tale of shrimps and mops, narrated by a crustaceous Ancient Mariner figure and delivered with a mixture of shyness and pride. Tired from the 8-hour journey to Glasgow (in a Ford Ka, he reminds us more than once), a little hoarse and missing his band, The Sussex Wit, Flynn gives a performance that is endearing and highly competent, but not quite the subliminal brilliance of which he is, on occasion, capable.

Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink

Johnny Flynn - Brown Trout Blues

Johnny Flynn - Live at Union Chapel