Review: Damien Rice - breath-taking, absorbing, spellbinding

DAmien Rice album covers
DAmien Rice album covers

Damien Rice, Usher Hall, Edinburgh


Where do you start? Breath-taking, absorbing, and utterly, utterly wonderful, Who knew such joy could be found in a gig packed with songs soaked in heartache, guilt,loss, recrimination and anger?

And for an introvert who tours infrequently and has gaps of years between albums - three in 13 years - Damien Rice seems completely at home alone on stage, sharing anecdotes laced with humility and humour, and clearly losing himself deep within the music.He’s a remarkable bloke - one I could watch all night long - and his gig at the Usher Hall was simply stunning.

It’s rare to be part of an audience sat in silence, so absorbed were they in the set which went from a whisper to a multi-layered scream thanks to his inventive, smart use of a loop box to make this solo gig sound as powerful and big - and visual - as anything any band could deliver.

From the opening ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’ delivered sitting on a wooden box to the brilliantly crafted, epic finale ‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’, Rice delivered a quite remarkable set that mixed the old with the new, and ended with a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.

For ‘Volcanoes’ - one of a handful of Rice classics sprinkled across the set - he asked for 15 volunteers to come up and form an impromptu choir. He was swamped as around 60 fans swarmed down the aisles and on to the stage. Many more were turned away.

The ringmaster remained in control, completely chilled as his vintage guitars were buried deep among his backing singers as set lights wobbled and selfies were taken.

Within minutes, while keeping everything spinning, he had them split into two for the chorus - and it worked exquisitely. A magical moment to witness and, for those on stage, be part of.

Someone wrap him in cotton wool and keep him miserable and guilt-wracked for the rest of his life - his music, and his shows, are truly precious.

One of the very. very best gigs I have ever seen.