Damien Rice | 04.17.15

live damien-rice_75You can feel all the emotions: sadness, yes, but also yearning, begging, hoping, conceding, and accepting, triumphing, even.



live damien-rice_500

Boulder Theater, Boulder, Colo.

It had been a long, long wait. I’m not talking so much about the time we spent queueing outside the venue, waiting for doors to open; standing on the floor of the club, listening to the (some might say “interesting,” others “painful”) opening act, Icelandic duo Galagalactic; and then biding our time until the headliner took the stage 10 minutes late—although the seconds stretching out were palpable. No, I’m referring more to the eight years between albums and, by extension, tours from the Irish troubadour. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who worried we’d never hear anything new from the gifted singer-songwriter; there weren’t even any updates to his website over that extended span. But then 2014 brought us a highly welcome, and perhaps unexpected, gift by way of My Favourite Faded Fantasy, and then another gift: a U.S. tour. (Two, actually, counting the co-headlining amphitheater tour—which hits Red Rocks in August—announced after the club shows almost universally sold out.)

Tonight’s show had been announced as “An Evening with Damien Rice,” which usually meant there would be no opening act. Somehow, though, in between the on-sale date and the show itself, the “evening with” part disappeared and an opening act was added. Oh well; we’d waited that long, right? When it finally—finally—came time, Rice took the stage wordlessly: alone save for an acoustic guitar (was I the only one who didn’t realize he’d be touring sans band?), and dove right in to the beautiful, brilliant, heartbreaking “9 Crimes.” After crescendoing with loops and guitar, he next gave us “Coconut Skins,” from the same 2006 masterpiece 9, and then “Delicate” from his debut, 2003’s O.

And then, finally, he spoke, addressing the rabid, adoring crowd with a smile and, “You sound like a very happy bunch for people listening to sad music. Oh, I know why. Marijuana’s legal here.” After a laugh, he continued philosophizing on sadness—previously in music, and now in words: “There’s a bunch of things that can lead to people’s sadness. Sometimes it’s things just not working out, and sometimes it’s people in our lives who are just motherfuckers.” Up next, “The Box,” about a friend of his who was that very motherfucker: the man he saw when he looked in the mirror.

live damien-rice_300“It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” was another rapturous delivery: quiet then loud, inward then outward, subtle then soaring. There he was, backlit in red with no spotlight, delivering whispered do-do’s and humming, until the spotlights surged and his guitar suddenly blossomed, sounding electric, heavy, embellished with bass. During “I Don’t Want to Change You,” I realized an acoustic Damien is really the best Damien, the way he’s meant to be experienced. Here in the small venue, a single man with a microphone and guitar on stage, you can hear every word. You can hear the strength and undertones in his perfect voice. You can feel all the emotions: sadness, yes, but also yearning, begging, hoping, conceding, and accepting, triumphing, even.

After receiving a roar of applause after asking, “Was anybody here at the last concert?” Rice then got a laugh with, “Have you all had babies in the meantime?” Next: a long story about the weather in Ireland, gray curtains on the windows, friends, misunderstandings, and imagination, the backstory for “Aimee.” Moving to a tabletop pump organ, he dryly commented on three injections every Irish child receives at birth: shame, guilt, and politeness. “We get told everything that’s wrong very early. This song [“Trusty and True] is a bonfire for all those things that keep us chained to the ground.” “We can’t take back the past,” he sang, “so let us start from here.” As he belted out these lyrics of forgiveness, his voice backed only by the sub-size organ, it was transcendent, a religious experience no matter your beliefs.

We got three more songs: “Woman like a Man,” “Elephant,” and “I Remember.” In true Rice form, the final song was the perfect juxtaposition of slow and racing, quiet and loud, simple and complex. Two soft-spoken syllables—”Thank you”—and he left the stage to great applause, enthusiasm that did not wane until he returned for an encore. Up first: “The Blowers Daughter,” the song that not only introduced the world to Damien Rice, but told us in no uncertain terms he was an artist with a unique gift. Perfection.

Next, he invited the opening duo on stage—she with cello and voice, he with tambourine—to join in on “Volanoes.” There was a caveat, however: “We had the quickest look at this in sound check; we didn’t properly rehearse it. Gila doesn’t know the words so I’m going to tell her as she’s singing.” Even the humorous whispers in her ear couldn’t distract from the fact that their contributions made a tremendous impact. Following this majestic offering, he let the duo perform another song as he briefly left the stage, and the crowd letdown during this short break was palpable.

Back on stage with his trademark red wine, Rice joked, “Welcome to the second half of the show.” He then raised his glass in toast, adding, “It’s going to be a short half.” In introduction to “The Professor and La Fille Danse” (which he sang standing atop a stool, microphone stretched high), he asked us to imagine a teenage boy receiving one million dollars a day and not knowing what to do with all that money—and then made the analogy to the one million sperm flooding a male’s body beginning in puberty. He kept up the humor during the song, singing the Professor’s words in a Freudian accent and La Fille’s in French.

After refilling his wine glass, he gave away the rest of the bottle and, ultimately, his own goblet. Smiling, he chided, “Enough joking. I’m being serious, playing fucking music here.” Before “Long Long Way,” the final song of the night, he said, “This is a song about fucking up,” prompting Gila to joke, “Another one?” For a third time, the duo joined Rice, this time in a song swelling to a cacophony of sounds, words, and instruments, providing a high that ushered one thousand of us out into the unseasonably chilly April night. Brilliant. | Laura Hamlett

Set list:

9 Crimes
Coconut Skins
The Box
It Takes a Lot to Know a Man
I Don’t Want to Change You
Trusty and True
Woman Like a Man
I Remember

The Blower’s Daughter
The Professor & La Fille Danse
Long Long Way

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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