at Lift Global Music Club,
Derbyshire, England (21 February 2004)

at the National Centre for Early Music,
York, England (23 February 2004)

For those that do not know them already, Flook is an exciting, funked-up four-piece British acoustic band that always impresses its audiences without fail. Combine this expectation with a hip and happening venue like the Globe and you are guaranteed an explosive gig. The small room at the pub was absolutely packed to capacity and the band warmed to the atmosphere from the outset. It is a music club which does not seem to rush things unnecessarily -- hence Flook only came on at 9.45 p.m. (finishing at 12.15 a.m.) after an excellent support set from three young musicians from Matlock.

The band was straight into its upbeat stride from the opening "Beehive" -- one of a range of exciting numbers from their latest album Rubai (2002). John Joe Kelly, world renowned bodhran player, and Ed Boyd, guitarist, were clearly up for this gig from the outset as were fellow band members Sarah Allen, flutes and accordion, and Brian Finnegan, flutes and whistles. This opener was met with a huge cheer from the audience.

An impressive feature of the band is the startling interplay between Allen's flutes and Finnegan's whistles, but Allen shows even further versatility by playing the accordion too on some numbers, as she did on a set of Donegal tunes during which she seamlessly reverted to flute. There is always a lot of excitement surrounding Kelly when he is on stage and he was really belting it out during "Granny" -- one of the band's most popular sets.

One of the highlights of the gig was an astonishing interpretation of former band member (now with Capercaillie) Michael McGoldrick's "Trip to Herve's," which he includes on his own Morning Rory album. The band showed great verve and virtuosity throughout this number. It was good to hear some new material too, including two tunes both intriguingly called "Wrong Foot Forward." The band's earlier album Flatfish was not forgotten either with the long and varied set "Flutopia." There was great hilarity during this number when Kelly momentarily dropped his beater in the heat of the moment.

The band was impressed with the Glossop audience's willingness to engage with some encouraged "finger dancing" during another set -- there certainly was not any room for dancing of any other sort. The last slow tune of the night was "Glass Polska," which allowed Kelly a short breather off stage before his heroics at the conclusion of the gig. The pace picked up again with "Pod," in which Boyd included some new guitar embellishments, and "Larry." The penultimate tune, Gordon Duncan's "Pressed for Time," is perhaps the epitome of the band at their best with flute and whistle balanced superbly by guitar and bodhran -- and with everything played at tremendous speed.

The band finished the scheduled part of the gig with their trademark conclusion, "The Dub Reel" (another McGoldrick tune). After a tantalisingly slow introduction the band reached full tilt again before leaving the stage clear for Kelly's bodhran solo. Although I have seen this before, it is a most incredible sound and sight as he seems to strain every muscle and sinew to maximise the instrument's potential. The audience was spellbound throughout and frequent gasps of amazement were heard. After a huge reception, and congratulations to Kelly from the rest of the band, too, they returned to the stage to play Eb reels from Flatfish -- a very pleasing finale.

The Lift's organisers are to be congratulated for bringing this increasingly popular band to such a modestly sized venue. I think next time they might have to find somewhere in Glossop with a rather larger capacity!

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 13 March 2004

The prospect of seeing Anglo-Irish acoustic band Flook live at the National Centre for Early Music was enough to tempt my daughter and I out on a bitterly cold night. Flook have won far too many awards for their immensely exuberant, vibrant live act, and this gig, played to a sell-out audience, gave the band a great opportunity to perform some new material, together with tunes from their award-winning albums Rubai and Flatfish.

Many of Flook's gigs are sell-outs; they've built up a loyal, lively following through their frequent touring and their great rapport with their audience. The audience was hugely appreciative, and this was another great event sponsored by the Black Swan Folk Club of Peasholme Green, York.

The band is 100 percent acoustic and comprises four inspired musicians: two enormously talented flute and whistle players, London-born Sarah Allen (alto flutes/piano accordion) and Armagh-born Brian Finnegan (flutes/whistles). Ed Boyd hails from Bath and is a craftsman on the steel-strung guitar; and John Joe Kelly from Manchester is the undisputed maestro of the bodhran.

Despite some irritating sound problems Monday, the band blasted its way through a superb set, including "Beehive," "Granny," "Trip to Herves," "Flutopia," "Pod" (inspired by an empty car roof-box!) and "Wrong Foot Forward." The interplay between these musicians is second-to-none. Finnegan and Allen have a superb mutual empathy -- their lyrical, often urgent and very expressive playing weaves magic, and it's fascinating to see Allen balanced on one leg, flamingo-like, as she plays alto flute!

There were several undisputed highlights this evening, most sensational being John Joe's "Dub Reel" bodhran solo (when the rest of the band leaves the stage to allow the audience to focus 100 percent on Kelly), which must be seen to be believed -- it usually lasts at least 15 minutes. This is a player who uses his beater to hit every last centimetre of the bodhran skin's surface, while moving his left hand against the skin to create an astonishing array of sounds and textures. Gasps of appreciation abound as he plays, and you could have heard a pin drop in York.

Asked why Flook haven't yet recorded this brilliant track, Allen says nonchalantly; "Oh, it's a gig thing!" Whatever it is, it's brilliant.

Other highlights included the incredible "Glass Polka," where Allen and Finnegan's breathing control was consummate, and Gordon Duncan's exhilarating "Pressed for Time," which was flung at us with breathtaking urgency.

Live acoustic music at its best, and almost on my own doorstep! This was another excellent booking by the Black Swan Folk Club's Roland Walls. If it hadn't been for the sound hitches, it would have been perfect.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 13 March 2004

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