Jon Gomm – Cecil Sharp House, London – 15th November 2022 – Gig Review

Jon Gomm – Cecil Sharp House, London – 15th November 2022 – Gig Review

16th November 2022 0 By Dan Peeke

If you’ve heard of Jon Gomm, it’s probably thanks to his 2011 semi-viral YouTube hit Passionflower’. With the help of an extra-low action guitar neck, banjo tuning pegs, warn-down wood on the body of his guitar and some mystical reverb and delay pedals, Gomm taps, detunes and drums his way through atmospheric, deeply melodic and incredibly impressive folk-adjacent tunes.

Cecil Sharp House is a strange venue. Chemical white and school-scented, it feels more like you’re going to assembly than to see, in the words of someone sat behind us, “probably the best percussive guitarist in the world.” There’s a Morris Dancing lesson going on in a room downstairs, and if you listen hard enough you can hear their sticks clattering against the wooden floor. Odd.

A silent, clearly nervous Jon Gomm took to the stage in front of roughly fifty ex-music students

who heard ‘Passionflower’ while studying (us), and fifty older folk guitar enthusiasts (not us).

The opening ‘Telepathy’ seems to give him the courage to begin talking to the audience, and

he’s quickly introducing each track with a self-depreciating stand up comedy routine or

genuinely moving story.
‘Deep Sea Fishes’ is a sea monster love song about inspired by a documentary about creatures of the deep that Jon watched during a battle with depression. ‘Burn The Factories Down’ takes aim at the production line pop music produced by shows like The X Factor and The Voice. We  even get a cover of Erasure’s ‘Have A Little Respect’ thrown in for good measure.

His tribute to Ukraine, and more directly his schoolfriend’s Ukranian wife, is a delicate

instrumental based on the folk tune ‘Shcedryk’. The track’s haunting main ostinato (know as the Christmas piece ‘Carol Of The Bells’ to most) is placed subtly within a wholly original arrangement that honours the original tune, but takes it in new, technically complex, directions.

Before the interval, we hear the genuinely incredible ‘Passionflower’ in full. It’s played perfectly, with moments I assumed were originally improvised being replicated note-for-note. The way he slowly introduces tapping, drumming, detuning and singing never gets old. That said, EQ doesn’t do him any favours here, with the bassline struggling to find its way through the mix. Still, it’s a genuinely moving experience to watch such a beautiful piece of music be performed


These are all going to sound like those scripted quotes written for people in the audience of Britain’s Got Talent, but they’re all completely real things I overheard while queuing for a pint in the interval: “I travelled 150 miles just to see him.” “It makes me feel like I know what I want from life.” “My son has ADHD and plays guitar. This is what I hope for him.” All completely real. Considering Jon explained early on in the evening that he has ADHD, I’m sure that last one

would mean a lot.

The evening’s most emotional moment comes as soon as he returns to the stage. He explains that he had been trying to get away without introducing ‘Ghost Inside Of You’, but felt he had to contextualise the song, which is about his wife’s miscarrige, for the audience. You can feel the heartbreak in every melody, and it’s very easy to see that just performing the track takes Jon somewhere deep. He follows it up with ‘Cocoon’, an equally beautiful track about actually becoming a father.

He takes us through a few more covers after this, with Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ getting the

Gomm treatment, and tribute being paid to his friend and guitarist Johnny Walker (who died in

2018) with a cover of one of his tracks.

Even Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ makes a subtle

appearance in arguably the most musically complex track of the evening, ‘Everything’.

His final track is performed unplugged and amongst the audience. It feels quite special to hear his voice and guitar completely raw, with no effects or amplification. After some disastrous audience participation during ‘Burn The Factories Down’ earlier in the set, it’s nice to see Gomm successfully conduct this miniature choir through a call and response accompaniment in the track’s dying moments. He could’ve easily gotten away with performing in this ultra-intimate way all evening, but this feels like more of a treat.

In fact, it was all a treat. The obvious highlight was ‘Passionflower’, simply because I’ve been obsessed with it for almost half of my life, but the incredibly emotional double bill ofGhost Inside Of You’ and ‘Cocoon’ was a seriously moving experience that was shared by the entire audience and Gomm himself.

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