Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fionn Regan @ Lakeshore Theater

A subdued yet memorable set from Ireland's rising young star

The Lakeshore Theater, I believe, is made for nights like tonight. It's a quiet Monday on a usually bustling block and folks are lining up. The air outside is comfortable, the atmosphere inside is relaxed, and the rows of seats slowly filling up provide a perfect venue to enjoy the intimate performance of Ireland's 26-year-old Mercury Music nominee, Fionn Regan.

Regan's music instantly conjures up names all too connected with the crowded acoustic singer-songwriter genre: Elliott Smith. Nick Drake. Bob Dylan. Artists known best for the voice, the acoustic guitar, and nary a hint of pretense. True to these comparisons, Regan walked onstage wordlessly, set down an old beat up suitcase bearing his duct-taped initials and began.

Songs such as "Hey Rabbit," "The Underwood Typewriter," and "Put a Penny In the Slot" sounded spot-on, as Regan stood blank-faced, focusing all attention on the music filling the theater. Most of the songs featured friends on drums, background vocals and occasional percussion. When he decided to speak to the crowd it was in a timid, self-deprecating way detailing his hometown ("They still don't realize that when you talk to the TV, it doesn't hear you") or his frilly ascot ("Probably a fashion choice I'll regret later"). Even so, there is an undeniable hint of confidence in his persona, not only to command the attention of a seated audience but also to play an hour-long set 100 percent mistake- or misstep-free.

Immediately after announcing his encore song, "Be Good or Be Gone," a brave attendee shouted, "Tell us what it's about!" Regan laughed, sipped his whiskey, and told a hilarious story that ended with him punching an ostrich. (Thankfully, that's not the actual subject of the song.) He then walked out to the front of the stage and played it, without a microphone or amplifier, capping off an enjoyable evening with its most intimate memorable moment. - B. Nanna

Photo by Craig Shimala