Cork’s resident grump Mick Flannery has done the seemingly unthinkable in this fickle industry – remaining firmly in the public’s conscience while consistently delivering good material. Certainly, his records are not necessarily the ones you’d reach for if you were looking for a mood boost. But his brand of dark rock ‘n’ roll is now synonymous with his buttery vocals, and ensured he’s cemented a long-standing presence.
First on stage at the Olympia, however, is Kojaque, a Dublin hip-hop artist who struggles to establish his own presence during his support slot. He’s an admirable choice for an opener for Mick, and the unconventional direction is welcomed. It would have been easy to pick another ‘up-and-comer-with-a-guitar’. Kojaque’s production is unique – Midnight Flower sees the stunning use of a Sampha sample – but he’s very obviously nervous, rushing through Wifey.
When he’s not rapping, his voice is actually surprisingly soulful – Being Earnest sees him accompanied by studio vocals provided by Faye O’Rourke, and it’s a very beautiful take. However, when her vocals aren’t being piped out, he is restrained in singing in himself.
He explores a lot of typical themes discussed within hip hop’s lyricism – drug culture, absentee parents – and as previously mentioned, his production and choice of beats provides an interesting mix. However, his confidence as an artist is what looks to be holding him back.
Mick arrives on time, with no heirs and graces. The transition from Cork layman to crooner would make most double-take. The lighting accompanying his vocals is equally dreamy.
“Any random noises ye’d like to make is grand”, he says, which is proceeded by an array of yips and hollers. “Maybe not a good idea to say that on a Saturday night,” he laughs.
How High features the most serene accompaniment from his keyboardist – organ style keys piercing through a hush Mick has created as quickly as he did a jovial atmosphere.
Mick masterfully manages the tone throughout the evening. In some lights, he becomes menacing – a brutish man snarling with a guitar under his arm. One Of The Good Ones is an engrossing watch, though he bemoans the track’s “pretentious title” before he kicks it into gear. On more than one occasion, he stumbles over his words, but it’s a forgivable offence.
Gone Forever sees Mick cast in blue and red lighting – appropriately so, seeing as the track comes from his third studio album, ‘Red And Blue’. His aunt, Yvonne Daly, provides the harmonies throughout most performances. They have a lovely rapport, and succeed in striking up a lovely balance between vocals.
Saftey Rope is the highlight of the night. At this point, Mick shares an anecdote from a gig in Galway, when he got a bout of hiccups during this particularly sentimental moment. Luckily, this doesn’t happen at this gig, and the lyrics are still painfully bruising in their delivery: “And she said that I want my innocence man/I want my confidence back/I don’t wanna feel like this no more”.
The percussion throughout is played with precision, and it’s not often you get to see a percussionist like Christian Best play so delicately and effectively.
I Own You, a song about capitalism according to the man himself, gets the biggest reaction of the night. He obliges the audience with an encore, (or “the showbiz bit”, as he calls it), playing The Small Fire.
It’s hilarious in itself how self-deprecating and dry he is in his delivery, only for him to turn around and furiously attempt to strangle your heart strings. Mick Flannery with a lot of emotions, but not to the point where they ever overwhelm his output or his songwriting. He is very, very good at what he does, and his performance explains his lasting impression on the Irish music scene.