We are indeed privileged tonight in Norwich. Mr Mick Flannery, singer-songwriter and former stonemason from Blarney (no, you couldn't make it up could you?) in County Cork, is playing a short UK tour of six 'intimate' venues. Last night was actually St Patrick's Day, so Mick was in London playing the Royal Albert Hall (well, the Elgar Room within The Royal Albert Hall but why spoil a good story?). Tonight we are at Norwich Arts Centre, the fans are mingling with the friends and family, and the Guinness is flowing. One couple have come up especially from Colchester, and are dismayed to find that their last train home leaves at 10.00pm. Flannery is not due on stage until 9.45. But more of that later.
Two singer-songwriters are supporting tonight. The first, Tilly Dalglish, is from Bury St Edmunds, and whilst she is still only 17 years old she has already spent one summer playing the festival circuit, including Folk East, as well as appearing in Norwich at The Bicycle Shop. Her voice is soft and gentle, and she picks delicately at her mandolin whilst she sings. Quite beautiful.
Pip Mountjoy from Yorkshire may be a couple of years older, but has not wasted any time in carving out a name for herself. After being supported by BBC Introducing she played Glastonbury in 2013. Her voice is stronger, and her guitar playing places her firmly into the 'folk' arena, yet she also has contemporary influences fighting just beneath the surface. Check out the standout track from her set The Killing Kind to see what I mean.
Mick Flannery gets a warm welcome as he takes the stage to commence his set. The couple from Colchester are still here. After hearing of their predicament, hotel arrangements for Mick's family have been hastily re-arranged to free up a room, so no-one has to go home early, and everyone gets to see the full show. What a gentleman.
A couple of songs in and we can see why Mick Flannery's last two albums have gone straight to number one in his native Ireland. His gentle manner and amiable introductions are backed up with an incredibly rich and soulful voice. A lot of the songs are based on heartbreak and love, but there are also moments of lighter relief (literally in the case of The Small Fire).
There are covers of songs by both Bruce Sprinsteen and Tom Waits, which give away some of his songwriting influences, but it is his own compositions that really tug at the heart. For those present tonight, myself included, who came out of curiosity rather than familiarity, we left Norwich Arts Centre feeling warm and enriched. And full of Guinness.