The final day of NorthSide was met with absolutely bangin’ weather and a massive swell of people entering the festival grounds earlier than previous days to see either Phlake or Damien Rice – two opposite ends of the musical spectrum – the new local kids or the weathered Irish troubadour.
I was determined not to let my personal hatred and prejudice for Rice’s music deter me from an unbiased assessment of his set – I’ve always associated his music with pain – and not the good ol’ s&m type – the ‘slit-your-wrists-in-your-girlfriend’s-bathtub’ type. Anyway – I digress.
Firstly the MC’s that were doing the introduction introduced him as “Brian Rice” which just made me chuckle – it’s so inappropriate to even have hype guys come on to a stage to get the crowd to see anyone named Rice – and they still managed to cock up their one job.
Damien arrived on stage of course, and was dressed like a hobbit. I wasn’t the only one that noticed. He came at first solely bearing his battered guitar and delighted the intent crowd with “Delicate” – the opener to his classic album “O…” and most of the crowd swooned and quietly sang along.
Rice’s set was a mix of older material from his halcyon days, “Cannonball” and “Blowers Daughter” as well as material from his newer records. Rice had a tendency to over-build his mostly delicate pieces with his array of loops and other stage toys. The sound often became too harsh and distorted – rendering otherwise beautiful songs uncomfortably…uncomfortable. I’ve never been a fan of this trick – and he always seemed to overdo it in past concerts I’ve attended of his. Rice relented on the loop symphony bit though, and created a cacophony of effect laden loops on his final number – even playing clarinet, tiny cymbals and a mic’d up fly-case. Most of the crowd seemed to eat it up and thought it was neat – however as a sometime troubadour myself I found the pedal antics a bit old hat and harsh.
Loops notwithstanding though – Damien rice is definitely the best of his generation at sappy troubadour folk – he’s something that both young and old can appreciate – a true storyteller through music in the Celtic tradition – just in a modern way. We can forgive him for a few of his sins of the pedal rack variety – and he has a mighty voice inside his ginger Irish head.
"Damien rice is definitely the best of his generation at sappy troubadour folk – he’s something that both young and old can appreciate" (4/6)