Mick Flannery at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 22nd March 2015
“I don’t have a lot to say for myself. I’m not very funny. That’s the deal”. Mick Flannery opens proceedings in the Olympia Theatre, setting the bar nice and low for the night ahead, in terms of banter at least. Despite his self-deprecating claims, Flannery’s crowd banter has seen a marked improvement over the years. He seems to enjoy drawing attention to his lack of verbosity, but then contradicts himself by being both funny and charming.
So it is that Mick and his six-strong band ease us into a soothing Sunday night session in a fully seated Olympia Theatre. In fact so soothing are the opening tracks, like The Blame and Live In Hope from latest album, ‘By The Rule’, that it looks like Mick and his band are trying to play their instruments as quietly as possible, almost in spite of the amplification, allowing Flannery’s howl to arrest the transfixed Olympia crowd.
“I’m starting to feel the weight of not having said anything. Not that I have anything to say”, quips Flannery about five songs in, before launching into Wish You Well. Suddenly it feels like everything has been turned up a notch, with a screeching guitar solo shaking everyone out of their stupor. The bluesy stomp of The Rebel keeps this going before Mick dismisses his bandmates and sits astride the piano for Boston and a new song about an old man in a small town, which, he notes with a smile, “is pretty much the same as every other song”. His humour can’t take away from the poignancy of the song and you could hear a pin drop (or, in this case, the hand dryer in the men’s upper circle bathroom – seriously Olympia, sort it out).
The storyteller in Mick just can’t be kept in tonight as he tells us how I’m On Your Side was written about a guy sharing his building in Berlin, before having a dig at hipsters. The song sounds far more sinister live than on record. As he’s about to give us a rendition of Red To Blue he tells how four or five friends have accused him of basing the protagonist, who is a bad drunk, on them, when in fact it’s based on Flannery himself. Similarly, before ending the set with The Small Fire, he explains how he lifted the lyric from his grandfather who, when he levelled the family barn with a fire as a child, he admitted he started the small fire, but he didn’t know who started the big one. It’s a heart-warming moment in a show full of these kinds of moments. There’s no pretension about Mick Flannery, just an earnest delivery of quality songwriting and heartfelt lyrics.
The encore begins with the one-two knockout combination of Safety Rope and Goodbye, Flannery again hunched over the piano, howling, somewhere between Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Unusually, Get What You Give is the last song he gives us, with its unfinished sounding ending, but that’s Mick Flannery isn’t it? Not quite the finished product but that’s why we love him.