He sings, he trumpets, he fiddles... This is the tale of when Alice, Kate and I toddled off to see the multi-talented mr Johnny Flynn in Exeter.
Although first there were some support acts, so let us begin with those.
First up were Melodica, Melody and Me. We missed the first part of their set (partly because we were distracted by seeing Johnny at the bar with his family, awww bless) but what I heard, I liked. I had heard of them a little before, having heard their debut single 'Piece Me Back Together' earlier in the year, and I knew that they had toured with some of the best in Britain (well, in my books) such as the Mumford lads, Bombay Bicycle Club on their acoustic tour (wish I could have seen that..) and Laura Marling. SO if they're good enough for the Mumfords, Jacky Steadman and Lazza M then I'm sure they'd be good enough for me. They were one man (well, woman) down, and I'm not sure why - they might have explained earlier in the set when we were still hanging casually by the bar trying to catch the eye of a certain Mr Flynn - but this did mean they were lacking the girly vocal harmonies which, as far as I can tell, are quite integral to their sound. But hey ho, it was still a lovely set. A friend of mine received a melodica for his 18th (this is one, for those who don't know!) and we haven't heard anything BUT melodica ever since. He is a very competent pianist, so therefore is relatively skilled on this instrument also, but it was nice to hear someone play with real melodica 'skillz', as it were. It was marginally less shrill when combined with the other instruments of the band too. So yeah, definitely one to check out. Here's their myspace.
Then came Basia Bulat. Now here was a Canadian lass I had never heard of, but really impressed me. She came on and started her set with a song completely a cappella, the only accompaniment her hands clapping and her high heeled boots banging out a rhythm on the stage. Her voice sounded so powerful, more so than it comes across on recordings I've heard since the concert. She's definitely worth a looksie, though. We met her briefly after the concert too, and she was such a sweet and genuine gal.
Johnny himself looked ravishing as ever. I realize I do go on about his looks rather a lot, and they are definitely deserving of this praise, but obviously what is more deserving of praise is his gorgeous voice and beautiful songwriting (although as Kate pointed out, the latter does seem to revolve around a few basic topics: 'being homeless', 'food', 'death' and 'religion'. Not to knock it, or anything! Those categories do make his music seem pretty suicidal. But it's good, I assure you!)
We were right at the front on the right hand side, just in front of the Sussex Wit's cellist, which was a prime position in my opinion since we could see the whole stage and marvel at Johnny whilst also keeping one eye on the epic cello playing going on right in front of us. We did then discuss for a good 10 minutes how to convert the word 'cello' into a verb. I cell, you cell, he/she/it cells? It has a certain je ne sais quoi, don't you think..?
Anyway, the set was bursting with old and new favourites, opening with a first album track 'Cold Bread' (see what we mean about the food thing?) and then newer single 'Kentucky Pill' which is a Johnny track to groove to if ever there was one. A couple of highlights for me had to be 'the Wrote and the Writ', which is one of my favourite songs ever, I think; it's quite stripped back compared to some his other songs, so exposes his rich baritone over just a guitar accompaniment. Barnacled warship gave him a chance to do some fiddling, and our fave neighbour 'cello man' got a prime spot in this one too, while during parts of the bluesy lollop of 'Howl' Johnno grabbed his trumpet (positioned so temptingly close to the edge of the stage that we could have simply grabbed it and made a mad dash for the exit...).
As is the usual case, after the final chord of 'Tickle Me Pink' rang out through the venue Johnny and his chums made a shambolic and half-hearted exit, knowing full well that we were still waiting for duet 'The Water' and a lovely euphoric stamp to 'The Box' before we would be satisfied to go home. To be fair from our front position we could also see cello man's set list, where these two songs were typed at the bottom, separated from the main set by a telling gap. Sure enough, they returned to the stage and gave us what we wanted. We had been discussing, at the beginning of the night, who would sing Laura Marling's part in 'The Water' in this live version.. My guess, before the band had come onstage, had been that it would be Johnny's sister Lillie, who sings harmonies on his albums, but I was wrong. It was in fact the band's keyboard player, a chap, reaching up into Laura's alto range with surprising ease. It was unexpected, but lovely. And then, after a good stomp along to 'The Box', it was time to hit the road (jack). I mooned over a limited edition tour poster for a while at the merch stall, priced at the extortionate rate of £18 (for a POSTER, jeez..), and we decided to do our usual 'hang around until most people have left and therefore hopefully bump into band members' ploy. Like I said before, we said hi to Basia Bulat, who was really sweet, and then heard a tip off that Johnny was hanging out down at the side exit. Needless to say after a couple of minutes of dithering we headed in that direction.
We were, of course, smoooooth operators:
"Oh, Johnny! Fancy seeing you here! How strange! Umm... Great show by the way... Umm... Can you sign this set list I stole from mr Cello Man..? Ermm, my name's Georgie... thank you so much...! Umm..."
We also told him about the '4 basic topics of his songwriting' which seemed to amuse him, mildly. So, a successful meet 'n' greet, I would say.
Here's Howl. Oh my god I only just discovered this session recording of it and ... Blimey. Do, do watch it.
So that was that evening. A good'un.
More from me soon, I promise!