It’s hard not to equate a gig to a spiritual experience when it takes place in a church. The acoustics are perfect, the audience is rapt, and the lighting is usually simple, but effective. This was the case when Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit took the stage at St. John at Hackney. This is the only time I will mention this hackneyed metaphor, because what Flynn and his band delivered wasn’t divine or heavenly: it was human. Real, down to earth musical talent that just so happened to take place in a holy space.
The set list was comprised of old classics and more recent material. It was clear that the die-hard fans had already memorised the words to the newer songs. Yet, even during the most well known ones, the audience sing-along wasn’t as overwhelming as one might expect. Whether out of respect for Flynn, or simply wanting to hear his dulcet singing, not the kid next to you, one can’t be too sure. The few moments where the audience let loose came during ‘Tickle Me Pink’ (who can’t resist singing along at the top of your lungs to “when you’re dead”?) and ‘Brown Trout Blues’, where Flynn let the audience take over for the last hurrah of “I know what I’m called, it’s just you got me, you got me stoned”.