I’ve never seen Bowery Ballroom so dark and I’ve never heard it so quiet as when I saw Fionn Regan play there tonight. The room was miraculously devoid of voices, but it was not still; you could hear every creak in the floorboard.
This is exactly how I had hoped it would be. It felt completely private, which was indicative of the fact that I do not know a single person in real life who knows of his existence. I got the sense that I am not the only one – I thought there was an uncharacteristically large amount of people who I presumed were flying solo. I never really thought that I would ever get to see Fionn, so it was really just one of those absolutely magical evenings that makes me think “thank god I live in New York City,” a place that artists cannot pass up.
I listened to all of “Be Good or Be Gone,” the first song of Fionn’s that I’d ever heard, with my eyes closed. They may as well have been closed the entire time, as there was hardly any light shining (hence the unimpressive photo above, which is the only one I managed). I get the sense that he does not like to have his photo taken and I was genuinely surprised that several people insisted on using their camera phone flash in a more or less pitch-black room. I loved the way that Fionn apparently does not need light to play his songs to perfection and he hardly looked down at his guitar, or even really opened his eyes – I kept imagining him in a cottage with no electricity after the sun goes down picking out his tunes flawlessly. His voice cut through the dark air like a knife. With my eyes closed, there were moments where it was tough to discern whether I was hearing a live song or the recording. It was that spot on, but not at all in a stale way.
When I saw The Twilight Sad at the Bowery last year, I thought to myself that James Graham felt like the closest thing to Ian Curtis or a prophet that I would ever see. If that’s the case, then Fionn Regan is the closest thing to a bard that we’ve got. A bard of what, I’m not entirely sure – his own design, maybe? There’s a fluidity to his music that I can never seem to put my finger on, but know is always there waiting for me.
For his one song encore, he came out and stepped out of the path of the mic to play a very quiet rendition of “Abacus.” Perhaps he always does it this way, but it took me by surprise – it seemed intimate in a way that was unexpected from such a soft-spoken man. I could not help but think that anyone farther back than the tenth row might not have been able to hear him at all. From my spot in the second row, I felt really terribly lucky to hear his beautiful voice naturally without it being projected through a soundsystem.
More than all of the above, I cannot stop thinking about the way Fionn changed the last line in “Hey Rabbit.” The original goes ,”Well, I made you rich, and you made me poor.” Tonight he sang “Well, I made you rich and you made me richer.” Everyone chuckled; I gasped for breath.
I always took the original line to portray a relationship in which one person gives more and the recipient takes, takes, takes. The song ends so abruptly on the word “poor,” and hearing that final monosyllabic word always makes me feel like some grand rug has been pulled from beneath my feet. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my own experiences of being made “poor” have enriched my life, enhanced my personality, whatever. They’ve…made me richer in a way that I never thought was possible, and it just seemed like one of those funny little life coincidences where an artist you turn to time and time again to feel known seems to be exactly on the same page as you are.