I was only 14 when Damien Rice first fell onto my radar. His music was pretty, as was his voice – but his lyrics were richer than I could appreciate.
Still stressed post work, stumbling into his show at The Tivoli Theatre (4 February) felt surreal. “Is this the right venue?” I thought to myself, because from the outside it was silent.
Damien was performing ‘Delicate’ when I was ushered through the door. He all crazy hair and acoustic guitar – the crowd completely mesmerised.
“People often ask why my songs are sad; why I don’t write happy music,” he chuckled. “But when I’m happy, I’m busy being happy… Shall we delve into something depressing?”
He played the leading track from his 2014 album, ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, dark as promised. Bright lights flashed in sync with the beat as it reached its thudding climax.
Cheers erupted but dissipated swiftly as he sat at the piano. The sentiment switched from desperate, to dejected, Damien singing the heartbreaking ‘Accidental Babies’. The audience was silent as he tuned his guitar: “This song is called – tuning,” he grinned.
I was surprised to recite all the words to ‘Amie’, many murmuring along beside me. Newer addition next, ‘The Greatest Bastard’ released ten years after his debut. The lyrics still grounded by his token theme: tragic, but accepting.
His vocal range shone during ‘Elephant’, he returned to the piano afterwards. “Love songs are rarely written to give something to someone… They often just express need.” The thought-provoking statement was met with applause; he introduced new song, ‘Astronaut’.
“I feel bad for you all, having to stand for so long. We’ll wrap it up – what should I play?” ‘Colour Me In’ was asked for first, many laughed as he needed lyrical prompts. Damien closed with ‘Volcano’, splitting the audience in three; we became a choir, chanting harmonies.
An encore ensured. “I’ll tell you a story,” Damien said, as he invited a fan on stage. As promised, he recited an anti-fairytale of boy meets girl at a bar. Together, the pair drained glasses of wine; “F..., you’re competitive,” he teased, as they drank.
Damien sang ‘Cheers Darlin’ to a backing track, before surrendering the top request. ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ was arguably more beautiful than even I expected. Half played on piano, half guitar, and cooed by hundreds in the room.
Feels rare for a solo artist to fill a space with so much sound. But Damien’s voice packs an impressive punch – and he’s exceptional with dynamics. Dynamics meaning he uses VOLUME to change the mood, to add intensity. His simple crescendos evoke more emotion than the addition of a pointless instrument.
And emotion-filled are his songs indeed, though many with tongue-in-cheek. One COULD assume some lyrics are corny, until reading between the lines. That reading is easier listening live – his personality shines. So much stereotypical Irish charm, paired with a lot of sensitivity.
I only recently began to grasp the depth of Damien Rice’s lyricism. Though even now, his wise songwriting still makes me feel 14.