Damien Rice has no real “hits”. It took him almost a decade to release his third album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, and is currently touring in support of it as a solo act. So how did he manage to sell out the nearly 3,000 capacity Bass Concert Hall on Thursday night? The short answer: once you hear one of the Irish troubadour’s songs it embeds itself into the part of you that relates to the lyrics, which often revolve around sex, heartbreak, cheating, and “spending time with yourself.”
As Damien took the stage the lights dimmed with only a lone light beaming down on him as he launched into “Cannonball.” It only took a minute (and a few shushes from fellow audience members) until there was only enraptured silence accompanying the song. The absence of a band was completely forgotten as Rice launched into “I Remember”. As the song reached its climax, Damien stomped on a distortion pedal and the sounds of the distorted acoustic guitar were joined with looped distorted vocals, booming bass drum samples, and previously hidden flashing lights.
Throughout the night Damien cracked wise between songs. Anecdotes ranged from introducing the song “Amie” as being written after a night “spending time himself” in a friend’s bed, to explaining how he used to make graphs to determine the connection between making bad decisions and how much sperm had been building up. The latter was his introduction to the B-side, “The Professor & La Fille Danse”, where the absence of Lisa Hannigan was noticeable, as Damien sang her part of the song. During the encore Damien was joined by the opening act, Icelandic duo Galagalactic on cello and harmonium to perform “Volcano”. Singer Gyða Valtýsdóttir played cello and sang the part previously performed by Hannigan.
Though much of the set consisted of songs from Damien’s debut album O, “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” from the new album was the pinnacle of the show. The last half of the song saw Rice playing finger cymbals, clarinet, electric guitar and drums, which he looped into a huge wall of sound that filled every corner of the concert hall. As the song faded away and the official set ended, all 3,000 audience stood for a standing ovation. This was juxtaposed with an encore of “The Blower’s Daughter” performed with no assistance from the soundboard; just Damien, his guitar and the crowd singing along. Damien Rice is truly a talented musician and an extraordinary performer. Let’s hope it’s not another eight years before we see him again.