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Damien Rice PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
11 11 2004
Singer/songwriter Damien Rice fulfils most stereotypes necessary within his genre. Portrayed on stage as a tortured genius, it's a part he plays well. Having bowled everyone over by the success of his 2002 debut "O", the Irishman has shied away from the publicity that would almost certainly see him promoted up to the pedestal currently occupied by David Gray.

"O" is a spectacular triumph. It's a story of love, a story of wanting love, bound beautifully together by guitar and some superb strings. Damien has such a pure voice that he is equally at home shouting his feelings across on the haunting 'I Remember', or quietly whispering, as he does on the stand out track of the album 'Blower's Daughter'. It's one of the most brilliantly constructed songs of recent years. As soon as you hear it, you'll never forget the line "I can't take me eyes off you" sung throughout the song.

Damien RiceIt was with great excitement that I headed across to Newcastle University to watch him live. The first thing that hit me was just how bad a venue this was for a gig like this. With pillars obstructing the view of everyone bar a select few in the front rows, it meant missing out on seeing at least one band member for most of the time they were on stage. Damien then entered the stage. An easy start with 'Cannonball', a reasonably paced song to begin with, rather than one of his slower, more sombre numbers.

The problem with a lot of his songs, however, is that they sound fairly similar, so it was difficult at times to remember which songs he'd actually played. The only really dodgy patch was a guitar instrumental during 'I Remember'. The sound system wasn't right for it, and a mass of noise meant nobody could really tell what was happening.

The set was well paced however, and the songs well matched to the tune of a very well-oiled machine. Rice is fairly reluctant to communicate with his audience and it's difficult to understand why, given that for the most part he holds the crowd in the palm of his hand. Is he shy? Is he just adding to the mystique? Or maybe he'd struggle to really explain the stories behind his songs and leaves it up to us. I don't know. After 45 minutes he exited the stage, seemingly to prepare for his encore. We were treated to one of the best covers you will hear - the White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' on the cello is both mental and brilliant in equal amounts.

more DamienInstead of wrapping up the gig, Damien merely showed us his love for performing as he continued on stage for another hour thereafter. On stage he had two mics - a normal one as well as a distorted one, and he switches between the two with great effect. As well as the album tracks that he missed from the first half of his performance, he gave us a full selection from his varied repertoire: a reggae cover of his own 'Volcano'; Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'; and what was possibly the highlight of the night. Sung into his distorted microphone, a cover of Percy Sledge's ‘When a man loves a woman' was the perfect way to end the evening.

It sounded so right that it's hard to sum up into words, and it was a stroke of genius adding it into the set. Reprise after reprise, he carried on changing the words of his own songs until it was only Rice left on stage, thoroughly engrossed in doing what he loves. Until that is his guitarist literally dragged him off.

I'd never realised how big Damien Rice was before the gig, and thought I was one of only a minority to be into what he does. To look across a hushed room seeing excited faces mouth the words to every word of his songs was something I will not forget in a hurry. His vocalist Lisa Hannigan played her part magnificently, stepping into the spotlight at the mic to sing her songs beautifully, before retreating back into her hiding place.

All in all, there were few faults to pick during the performance. The interesting thing will now be observing Rice's move from the underground to the mainstream, and seeing how he and his music cope with it all.


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