Monday 26 September 2016

Damien Dempsey at Vicar Street, Dublin review: 'fulfils the purpose of great live music; sending people home with a smile and love in their hearts'

Published 28/03/2016 | 13:34

Damien Dempsey
Damien Dempsey
Damien Dempsey performing outside the occupied buildings on Moore Street. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Damien Dempsey, left, and Glen Hansard sing at Anti-water charge protest. Merrion Square, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

"Damien Dempsey gives me hope," proclaimed a mural by street artist Maser a few years ago. In post-recession Ireland, Dempsey is still offering hope and positivity in spades.

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After a very comprehensive programme of cultural commemorations for the 1916 centenary, it is highly fitting that the Donaghmeade songwriter headlines Vicar St on Easter Sunday.

There is also a very inspiring and touching bond between Dempsey and his audience. They raucously bellow his name before he comes on like a football crowd. The only other singers who inspire such feverish pre-show devotion are Morrissey and Bruce Springsteen. Incidentally, Morrissey is a huge Dempsey fan, even writing in his autobiography that he can imagine himself crying at his funeral.

The tone of the evening is set by the opening number James Connolly, which segues into the uplifting Celtic reggae of Negative Vibes. Dempsey already has the crowd punching the air and passionately singing along to every single word.

Colony is probably the best ballad about Irish history written this century, and it is a pertinent and moving centrepiece of the set. Damien takes it up yet another gear with a rousing version of The Rocky Road to Dublin, which is as good as any of the numerous versions over the years from The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers or the Pogues.

Glen Hansard makes a surprise appearance for an extended version of Brendan Behan's The Auld Triangle, which the pair have turned into their little party piece in recent years. They deliver an incredible version, soaking up all the love and euphoria from a delirious audience.

The parting glass is monumental. It's All Good features the simple but powerful refrain. "love yourself today." It is an All You Need is Love for Ireland in the 21st century.

Damien Dempsey fulfils the primary purpose of great live music; sending people home with a smile on their faces and more love in their hearts.

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