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Review: Johnny Flynn at Colston Hall, Bristol

I can’t fault his technical ability, but every song falls into the same repetitive pattern

Johnny Flynn

Johnny Flynn

Upon entering the Colston Hall 2, I am instantly hit with the dulcet self-deprecating tones of Welsh singer/songwriter Sweet Baboo. His songs cry out – odes to lost loved ones and Daniel Johnson songs (he references Daniel Johnson in the lyrics to the song ‘If I died’, with the line: “Daniel Johnston’s got lots of great songs and I’ve only got six”). It’s his bleak humour which means he’s warmly received by audiences far and wide, and tonight is no different. He seems a little surprised by the audience’s reaction to him, as he sings songs from latest album ‘Ships’, which he states is: “A kind of half-arsed concept album about boats and the sea.” Good stuff.

The room is packed to the rafters by the time Johnny Flynn arrives onstage; the little diminutive folk singer has bagged up quite an impressive fanbase through years of touring, since he first reared his head back in 2008 as part of the new wave of British folk with the likes of Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and co.

Sometimes folk music can be too safe or too nice and Johnny Flynn is definitely an artist that does little to upset the apple cart. Nice doesn’t always mean it’s a good thing. And here, Mr Flynn lacks a certain element of excitement. I can’t fault his technical ability, but every song falls into the same repetitive pattern, with each song having pretty much the same structure and tempo.

So, I find my mind wandering after the first three songs, perfect regurgitations of the one before – the background seems to take on a more interesting personality then that of Johnny Flynn. The biggest thing lacking was the sense of dynamic and to me it was to slow and lyrically too flowery for me to grapple hold of. Unlike Sweet Baboo, whose lyrical style I have found myself emotionally connecting with because of the humor in his songs.

The niceness becomes a little grating at times, even when he is singing about his son or about his family in general. I found myself craving a murder ballad and willing him to do something slightly out of the ordinary to liven up the evening, but no, he is definitely someone firmly entrenched in that inoffensive and ultimately very dull territory. This leaves me feeling bemused by his popularity, because I personally believe we have better singers/songwriters than this in our own city. Ho Hum.

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