Dancing in the dark? Not quite, but Damien Rice has plenty to celebrate as he shuffles from tortured balladeer to funk-rock warrior on a big-old, cavernous stage. It's album release day. Finally, after eight years, Ricer can say he's got a new record out (My Favourite Faded Fantasy). We'd presumed the Celbridge lad had gone missing. That might explain the ecstatic response from the floor. Then again, at a Damien Rice gig, the fans don't speak unless spoken to. And just look at what Damo can do when he asks us to join in, Ireland's pre-eminent, million-selling expert in jumper-wearing folk taking a tune as simple as Volcano and leading us in a three-part harmony-infused delight.
Rice is keen to show it all, and for two hours he gives us the new (The Greatest Bastard…nice title, better song) the old (The Blower's Daughter, still bringing crowded rooms to a hushed silence) and the heart-breaking (Elephant, sung without you-know-who). Yes, Damien performs sans band, and no, those scuzzy, Hansard-esque wig-outs don't suit him quite as well as he thinks. He also talks a lot of pretentious guff, and don't get us started on the unintentionally hilarious finale featuring Ronan O Snodaigh and choir (unnecessary schmaltz, lads). But by himself, in delicate, despair mode, Damien Rice is utterly remarkable - that sumptuous, rich vocal of his soaring high and low and hitting us where it hurts. It's how he spends most of his time, thankfully, and Rice cuts a confident, wholly spellbinding figure tonight; skilful, concentrated and, most importantly, reinvigorated.
A lot of effort has gone into making that silhouette figure of his almost God-like and, let's face it, it's paid off. A hell of a song-and-dance man.
Welcome back, dude. HHHHI