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ROCK DAMIEN RICE Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Damien Rice's long-awaited new album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, is a lush, orchestral work so it comes as something of a surprise that he chooses to play his first Irish show since its release in a ruthlessly stripped back fashion. It's just the man from Celbridge, Co Kildare, and the same battered acoustic guitar on a barely lit stage for the best part of two hours.

Such an approach runs the risk of being too samey and there is no opportunity to let bandmates take some of the pressure, so it says something about Rice's confidence in his own abilities that he can pull the whole thing together. For the most part, this sparse approach allows a rapt audience to appreciate the quality of his songwriting as well as allowing the fine new songs to breathe.

Two of those tunes, the haunting title song and the strongly commercial 'Colour Me In', work especially well in such a bare bones setting, while older work sits comfortably without the adornment of bells and whistles. If 'Delicate' lives up to its title a little too much to have an impact in the room, another early song, 'Older Chests' sounds truly magnificent as Rice demonstrates the enduring appeal of voice and guitar.

Wisely, he mixes up the old and new material and flits between the sombre and playful. Three songs in and he's at the crowd-participation game, 'dividing' the venue into sections to sing parts of 'Volcano'. It's a fun moment, albeit just a little too self-indulgent.

If the early part of the show seems a little flat as he finds his feet, it truly picks up for one of his most underrated songs, 'Elephant', and continues in a commanding version of a new ballad, 'The Box', which is surely destined to be a favourite in the Damien Rice canon for years to come.

Old favourite 'Cannonball' - which was given a ghastly X Factor makeover some years ago - and 'The Blower's Daughter' are dutifully delivered although, in truth, neither are highlights on a night when his less celebrated compositions get their chance to shine.

For the rousing closer, 'Trusty and True', Rice is joined by Kila multi-instrumentalist Rónán Ó Snodaigh, whose bodhrán helps accentuate its compelling torch song qualities. But Rice has a surprise up his sleeve when a large, predominantly female, choir 'materialise' out of the darkness at the back of the stage to sing its life-affirming coda.

It's a finale that takes a fine show and makes it great and illustrates the chutzpah of a singer who is as much maligned as he is loved.

Irish Independent