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On the night of his first show in NYC, UK troubadour Johnny Flynn has scores of young ladies literally pressed up against the stage as soon as he and the Sussex Wit open with “The Box.” He of the crushing voice, boyish good looks, shredding melodies and vivid English town and country imagery is both nonplussed and giddy upon receiving such an immediate welcome, saying, “It’s quite a strange but amazing pleasure to be playing here… a big thrill.”

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Flynn’s background as a Shakespearean actor may provide the focus needed to feign an air of detachment as he gazes into the rapt eyes of his new fans and sings the works off of his rich debut, A Larum, but between songs, he can’t contain his excitement at playing Bowery Ballroom (while on this U.S. tour with his friend Laura Marling) for the first time. Midway through the set, he mentions he’d first heard about the place in a Jeffrey Lewis song. Ah, sweet! Like Lewis, Flynn’s lyrics have a poetic storytelling appeal: detailed, concise, witty and mysterious, managing also an antiquated, dramatic flair that’s still grounded in the ways of the modern world.

“Leftovers” proves to be a crowd pleaser, with fans singing along to the seemingly Freegan lines “slip me some of them old sardines.” The innocent, simple life has never seemed so non-tragic and pure as when detailed by a performer such as Flynn. He and his band, The Sussex Wit, keep the set going at a swift pace, filling out favorites such as “Cold Bread” and “Hong Kong Cemetary” with emotive cello, a cappella, added percussion, ramshackle brass and plucky mandolin and violin. Bittersweet stomper “Tickle Me Pink” is the perfect set closer, rousing enough to keep the crowd in an upswept mood even when it comes time to bid the multi-talented, captivating Flynn a fond adieu.–Madeline Virbasius-Walsh/Photos by Eileen Murphy

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Appearing as pensive as a phantom and delicate as a tendril, Laura Marling opens with her rendition of “Ghosts” from her recently released album, Alas I Cannot Swim. Her gentle persona washes over the room, which becomes as hushed as a graveyard with people astounded by the young songbird. Marling’s platinum blonde pixie cut is illuminated by the white lights as her shaky voice radiates through each person staring longingly at her gentleness.

She appears seraphic, with each audience member wanting a piece of her personal puzzle, a glance into the back of her shaking throat. Her band is an orchestra with Marling as the conductor, gracefully following in her lead. Introducing two new songs, Marling’s set is polished with sullen foundations, the very fundamentals that fans fall in love with.

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Wise beyond her years, Marling’s lyrics come across as far from that of an 18-year-old. Instead we are reminded of a prudent woman, astute and related to every generation. Her morose voice furthers this as her smoky melodies remind us of our grandparents retelling tales of loss, love, hope and nostalgia.

The well-crafted sound on her album sounds even more melodic on stage and her accompanying haunting voice is both weary and buoyant. Marling’s old soul reminds us of the very underpinnings of live performance that too easily fall by the wayside – thoughtfulness that inspires emotion.

As she fingers her guitar strings and prepares to sing her well-acclaimed single “Alas I Cannot Swim,” the audience shivers and personally wills themselves to act as her life vest.–Eliza K. Johnston/Photos by Eileen Murphy