The audience removed their woollen hats and mittens, and warmed themselves by the rattling radiators having battled with the bitter December winds that shook Dublin.
Friends shared out communal flasks of tea, and couples embraces and held each other close.
As the lights of the Pepper Canister Church slowly flickered off, the murmur of the audience was hushed to a dead silence. A single spotlight pointed at an alter that was fronted with a collection of eccentrically illustrated guitars.
At that pivotal moment in the evening, Bray songwriter, Fionn Regan emerged from the vestry in complete silence. It took a moment for the audience to applaud his entrance because from the very beginning, we knew this was no ordinary gig.
With immaculate clarity, the opening chords of ‘100 Acres of Sycamore’ echoed through the wooden beams of the Pepper Canister. “Rise up, Brother, Rise up from the trappings of flesh and the holdings of skin,” Regan sang. From the get-go, the ambient atmosphere of this concert was firmly established. “This is Fionn Regan, at your service,” he quietly announced to a mesmerised audience.
Since he was short-listed for the 2007 Mercury Music Award, Fionn Regan has been hailed as Ireland’s leading songwriter.
His 2006 debut, “The End of History” was an acoustic and lyrical masterpiece.
In 2010, Regan made a bold move and went electric when he returned with “The Shadow of an Empire”. Although the album was a grand step away from its predecessor, the risk paid off.
“100 Acres of Sycamore” was this year’s offering. Regan retreated to his acoustic guitar, adding sweeping strings and lilting piano for good measure.
Some fans were puzzled as to why Regan ditched his live band, but it is clear from this performance that his songs can independently support themselves. In fact, dropping the band allowed his songs to come out of their shells.
It is obvious that Fionn Regan is all about the words, so without any distractions, his lyrics are completely exposed and can be wholly appreciated.
Highlights from the concert included “Hunter’s Map”, “Sow Mare Bitch Vixen”, “For a Nightingale”, “Be Good Or Be Gone” and “Put a Penny in the Slot”, to name but a few.
To close the show, Regan sat behind a grand piano and removed his cap to perform a delicate version of “Vodka Sorrow”. The silence that had been maintained throughout the evening was broken with a prolonged applause.
The Pepper Canister Church proved to be the perfect location for a singer with songs as fragile and impressive as Regan’s.
Hopefully, the Wicklow man will return with another album and another tour without delay, now that he is enjoying a period of great creativity.