Having been a fan since his first album, the Mercury Prize nominated ‘The End of History’, it’s not until his third album tour that I finally get a chance to catch Fionn Regan in person. This is the second stop for the Irishman, who is playing six dates in just one week, travelling from Glasgow down to London. Fionn’s second album ‘The Shadow Of An Empire’ was only just released last year. Influences such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, along with personal experience, appear to have sufficiently prepared the singer songwriter for a fruitful creative period.

This fantastic church sits in the middle of darkest Salford, a warm welcome from the Vicar and the sound of heavy applause for the support band through the double doors help me to quickly forget that I’m soaked in rain and freezing cold.

Fionn stands alone on the wooden pulpit, an arsenal of acoustic guitars in various wooden finishes and states of repair stand organised behind him. Spotlights from the balcony illuminate him in the darkness, his guitar and heavy necklaces reflect beams back into the seated and attentive audience.

With the distraction of any other instruments or players having been removed, it’s easier to concentrate on the lyrics and be impressed by Fionn’s intricate guitar playing. He is fully exposed on the stage, singing about memories and thoughts, relationships, literature… places appear regularly as similes.

He starts gently, as his latest album does, with the title track ‘100 Acres of Sycamore’. His singing voice is crisp, clear and confident, though his attempts to talk between songs are surprisingly hampered by a bit of flu. ‘Violent Demeanour’ breaks the trend of calm storytelling with a brash and passionate chorus. Old favourite ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’ is more lighthearted and has been responsible for introducing me to a novelist; “… for the loneliness you foster I suggest Paul Auster, a book called Timbuktu”.

He switches guitars from song to song and halfway through, the hat is off. After the introduction of ‘Hunters Map’ the crowd applaud in anticipation. This proves to be the highlight, rapid finger picking and the selective but effective lyrics take us on an invigorating trip through the countryside. He woops and shouts “Hey!” between verses, while all tap their feet and join him in evoking summertime memories. The do do dooo’s during ‘For a Nightingale’ capture a happier moment, the tune stands out among the other darker and more melancholy songs. ‘Be Good Or Be Gone’ makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, purely from the guitar intro.

Fionn returns for the highly demanded encore with the words “you said that last night” and finishes with ‘Lake District’. The album version contains cello and piano but neither are missed, tonight. The vocal is as delicate and as captivating as ever, the reverb that’s created naturally by the venue adds all the necessary depth. He bow’s to us, almost embarrassed by the adulation, and disappears through the curtains.

There were plenty of other songs of his that I would’ve liked to have heard tonight. I, and the rest of the crowd I’m sure, could’ve happily sat there silently for another hour. The wit and descriptive content of his lyrics are highly quotable and invoke a smile when recalled by the writer. The live recital contained a warmth as though being read your favourite stories as a child.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.