Last Thursday saw my first visit to the Barfly in Camden, and to be honest I really do hope it isn’t my last. Sure, it’s not the Ritz, but the sheer sound that echoes through the small room upstairs is better than anything you would ever hear in an arena. Whilst also celebrating his 16th birthday that day, John Lennon McCullagh pulled off a truly fantastic performance. Comprising of tracks taken from his debut album ‘North South Divide’ and some new, recently written songs; the set was certainly strong. After seeing him in Leicester around two months ago, I was very excited to witness him taking on the big city.
Being John’s first headline show in the capital, I would assume that it would be incredibly nerve racking, however not a glimpse of this was shown when the he was on stage. After some really great support acts, the UK’s answer to a young Bob Dylan, opened with the fast paced and upbeat ’55 Blues’. This also being the first track on his album, it really captured the attention of the large crowd, who were packed tight into the small room. The addition of ‘Long Long Way’ a few songs in, really added a certain depth to his performance. Whether it was the fact that it is a tuneful piece with a mixed tempo, or that it was simply just skilfully played – which ever, it drew you in. A genuine highlight of the evening was new single ‘North South Divide’. Not only were people nodding their heads to the beat of the song, but I’d like to think that it was also a nod of agreement to the thoughtful lyrics.
At this point, the crowd seemed to have relaxed into singing along, so it was the perfect moment for John to introduce his most thought provoking song, ‘Rivers of Blood’. It has a really reflective meaning that is delivered with an understated anger.
Some new songs were also thrown in; all of them showing that John Lennon McCullagh’s musical ability is really developing. ‘New York City Blues’ is one of these. You can tell that John’s music is still very much influenced by his heroes especially Leonard Cohen and of course, Bob Dylan. Nevertheless, in between his own headline shows, he has been supporting Alabama 3 and is soon to be recording with them, so it will be interesting to see what the “electronic country” band will bring to the studio.
McCullagh finished with ‘Short Sharp Shock’. The whole audience were extremely appreciative, including Josh McClorey from The Strypes, who made an appearance – John supported The Strypes earlier this year. It was a really fantastic gig, and I would recommend it to anyone, to go and take a look for yourselves.