Fionn Regan @ St Barnabas Church – 02/12/11

A more apt and beautiful venue could not be found in Oxford for this duo of acts. Both magnificent in their own right, Louise And The Pins and Fionn Regan’s intense musical and lyrical proficiency filled the large, but nonetheless intimate, St Barnabas Church perfectly.

The London based trio Louise And The Pins, who have recently supported Laura Marling on her latest tour, took to the stage first and seemed to wield the power of an entire choir between the three of them despite, as my intensive journalistic investigations brought to light, them all suffering from colds. Playing a mix of original material and a few covers, including a wonderful ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’, they welcomed the largely middle-aged and middle-class punters into the venue and set the scene for a subdued and polite evening of guitar pickery and poetic reference.

Next came headliner Fionn Regan with a set comprising Smiths-like imagery with a true mastery of force and dynamics, with lines such as “bite my lip in the quarry” recalling the romantic and dank realism of Morrissey. Reminiscent also of such icons as Brian Jones, Elliott Smith and Thurston Moore, not to mention the frequent lyrical comparisons to Bob Dylan, his set was largely one of slow balladry; elegant and understated whilst intense and joyous, gyrating with toddlerish enthusiasm in points and adopting a meaningful sway in others.

Playing a long set, he drew upon a wealth of excellent material, with tracks such as ‘Hunter’s Map’ standing out in a winning set. Largely though it was his guitar playing that impressed. Combined with the acoustics of the church, his guitar filled the venue with ghostly intensity; Bert Jansch could hardly have done a better job.

Despite the entire affair remaining very subdued, not the time for excessive cider drinking, as I was to find out (sorry, Jesus), the gig was magnificent in almost every aspect. It seems strange that he has lurked on the periphery for so long; but if it means that he can play venues such as this and stay away from the Reading and Leeds singalong a la Mumford and Sons, it can only be a good thing.