Fionn Regan (4 stars)

Fionn Regan

Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, Mon 9 Nov

The first thing you notice (well, I notice) about Fionn Regan is his wonderful head of hair. It’s thick and amazingly buoyant, three times rejecting the cap he squashes onto it in what may be an attempt to make himself even more reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan.

It’s not long, however, before the music makes a swift grab for the attention, not least because it’s so different from what you might expect after listening to Regan’s only long player to date, The End of History. For the first three songs, he’s in full rocking and rolling mode, with support band Danny and the Champions of the World (a solid, good-time band with a disappointing habit of stretching every song out into the same elongated, chugging coda) doubling up as his backing band. After that, the pace and the mood vary excitingly as he alternates between singing solo, a few more sparse arrangements with the band, and a liberal sprinkling throughout the set of real stormers. A listen to the only taster available so far of forthcoming album Shadow of an Empire, ‘Protection Racket’, confirms that this is the new direction for Regan, and judging by the strength of that song and ‘Genocide Matinee’, it’s a promising one.

The similarities with Dylan are not restricted to the sartorial: the lad from Wicklow has the urgent delivery, lyrical surreality and disarming habit of blending the state of the world with the state of his heart as the never-ending troubadour. Regan is still very much his own artist though, and at other moments comparisons with Leonard Cohen, Ryan Adams, and Ron Sexsmith spring to mind – all, notably, artists with a striking diversity of output and a fairly unique place in the musical world.

It may be indicative of the obvious quality of the material and a certain confidence that only such a strength can inspire, but Regan is one of those performers who is shy and almost wordless between songs, but when he’s playing or singing he’s full of theatrical flourishes and stage swagger. Perhaps it’s that combination of the heartfelt and the stylish that makes him such a charming prospect. Or perhaps it’s the hair.

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