Fionn Regan, Danny The Champions Of The World

Mike Mantin 12/11/2009

Fionn Regan, despite a long absence of late, is still revered for his sparse, isolated and beautiful folk songs. So it's nervewracking when we find out he'll be backed by a full band, Danny and Champions of the World, whose support slot of unremarkable folk-rock has all the subltety of a sledgehammer.

Fionn's set tonight in this suitably cosy venue opens with a rollicking new track, and it's immediately clear he fancies a bit of a shake-up (and a shakedown). Much of the songs presumably from his forthcoming album 'Shadow Of An Empire' are loud and bluesy, with some moments of genuine gutsy power. One particularly impressive track sees him let out a howl which didn't even seem possible from a man whose voice rarely rises above a hushed drawl.

But that's also his main problem: Danny and his Champions just can't do justice to the much-loved ballads from his 2006 debut 'The End Of History'. Perhaps this is just a Dylan-at-Woodstock grumble, but it's painful to watch a heartwrenching and delicate song like 'The Underwood Typewriter' get transformed into pub-rock halfway through. A jaw-dropping solo rendition of 'Put A Penny In The Slot' only serves a wistful reminder of how powerful he can be when left all alone.

All this is by no means justification to shout "Judas!" whenever he dares to use electricity, but for Fionn and his often fragile songs, it seems a shame to ignore the reality that less is very often more.