Damien Rice Live Review @ Manchester Arena [formerly MEN Arena] (Manchester) - 11 Oct 2007
Photos:Elly Roberts (copyright 2007)
He busked. He recorded. He conquered.
That's the brief history of 34 year -old Irishman Damien Rice.
For a man who writes frighteningly intimate songs, it was an odd venue for his new UK tour. Maybe supply and demand dictated, though he did confess to hating arenas, because he couldn't see us. The big question was, would the reclusive Irishman adapt to an 8,000 crowd? Would it be an 'O' dear , or a just a '9'. It was a perfect 10.
For two hours he plunderd his back-catalogue with songs from both albums, and lesser known songs.
Giving serious thought to his set, ( plenty of candles and joss sticks wafting the stage front ) he beefed -up things when it mattered, shifting from penchant 'mello-chello' ballads, on both piano and guitar,to rock excusrions that recalled his early rock days, it was triumphant night.
Just like his albums, it was a slow start - Rice and guitar only and not much said during the first few songs, that included Then Go, as his band increased to four on the divine Older Chests and What I Am To You with sublime cello hitting the heart strings, as it does on many of his sad songs. Gradually his confidence grew. He engaged more and more, showing a sharp wit, in contrast with his melancholic musical template, drawing roars of laughter to the very end, which was, by any standard, unusually spectacular. From then on, he teased us, building his set to many highs and lows. Dipping into '9' he played the, almost, uplifting last single Dogs. The sombre but achingly beautiful Amie drew us in, as the sweeping cello rang around the cavernous arena, then on piano for non-album single Unplayed Piano with smoke and film footage rolling we got a tear-jerking tribute to Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Mid -way, he asked if we wanted a fast song, for a change. Somebody, as they do, shouted "La Bamba!".....so we got La Bamba, sung in Spanish, to roars of laughter and cheers, followed by, " A few years ago I'd have done your wedding do for £300. Missed out there didn't yah ?" Cries for The Blower's Daughter were skilfully dismissed, though we wouldn't be deprived. Finally the rock-blast struck, as the modest lights went to overdrive for a stunning crescendo on stirring I Remember. Then came the masterstroke. Moving away from the mic, and another step forward, he sang Cannonball front stage in palpable silence under the spotlight. We soon twigged: we were to join in, and we did -a stunning move. Running out of time, fears grew that he might not give us what we all wanted, the biggie - The Blower's Daughter....predicatably it was a joyous experience for us all, and a kind of relief of sorts, when it came. With band gone for the finale, Rice turned storyteller and comedian, with an acted out lead-in for Cheers Darling, throwing himself completely into the roll of a drunk, sinking four glasses of red. A standing ovation resulted in a wave, a bow, "Goodbye", and he was gone.
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