Damien Rice at Iveagh Gardens – Review
The threatening clouds began to recede as our man made his way to center stage, delivering a quick hello before beginning his set. There is an excited intimacy in the air, almost as if the man on stage is a close friend playing his first show and we are all wishing the best for him. A good performance will keep a crowd entertained for an evening, but this was a performance to be taken home and kept in a safe place, to be experienced again through personal reflection. The soft chords of ‘Cannonball’ ushered in the beginning of the set, with the distant chirping of birds complementing the performance, enhancing the natural and earthy sound of his style.
Renowned for his ability to create genuine, heart felt music, the headliner developed this motif a little further by sharing a few short, intimate stories. Ranging from his own self criticism, to romantic downfalls and fogged up windows, these stories added another layer to his art, reminding the audience of the connection between art and emotion. That being said, there was no absence of humour, evident by his talk of testicles, quipping that, ‘men have a more difficult time in life than women’, which was met with laughter and mock outrage.
While the emotional effects and the one-man performance provided a space for a peaceful and intimate show, there were moments where you might think you had arrived at the Iveagh Gardens on the wrong night. The use of various vocal loops and dirty, over-driven guitar created another dimension for one of Ireland’s favourites. The performance of ‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’ from last year’s My Favourite Faded Fantasy release was particularly impressive. Instrument after instrument looped and layered on top of one another, creating a completely different beast with a notable, guttural growl. Later, he lead us through a sing-a-long for ‘Volcano’, carefully guiding the crowd through the vocal melodies, creating a rich chorus, peppered with his own passionate wail.
Stories of curfew-hampered outdoor shows have become a regular occurrence, particularly for outdoor shows in Dublin. It can have its positives and negatives, but it must be said that closing a show with just a guitar and voice, without a boost from the PA, creates a special moment. Predicting the inevitable, Damien Rice said his goodbyes and ended the show with ‘The Blower’s Daughter’, while the audience held its breath, listening intently.
Somewhere between sorrowful-serenity and undeterred energy is where you will find a live performance by Damien Rice. His set took the audience on a journey through his work, his stories opened a door to his mind and his performance was simply flawless. It is a welcome return to a hallowed artist, who had disappeared from the music scene for quite some time. Despite this, he still demonstrates a mastery of performance dynamics and excellent command of crowd participation, creating a personal experience for the audience and ensuring the reputation of his performances remains untarnished.
Review by Darragh Ryan