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Damo delivers a knockout show

Built like a boxer, that Damo. He used to be one, you know, before the music took over. Six albums later, and now Damien Dempsey has added a Best Of collection to his repertoire.

He's travelled far. He still warms up like an athlete, bouncing on the spot while the roadie switches guitars. His game face is one of determination and ruthlessness, but the truth is, the Donaghmede man, who tips his hat to Marley and Kelly, is just a big friendly giant.

"Who fancies a sing-song?" he asks. Everyone, apparently. "It's all good." See, the man's got heart. This is only the Button Factory, but when Dempsey steps to the edge of the stage and holds his microphone high, it might as well be an arena.

Of course, he doesn't make things easy on himself, and he's always reaching higher than his vocal cords will allow, but Dempsey continues to make a sweet sound out of those intricate educated lyrics of his.

He'll switch from reggae soldier and wistful trad man to acoustic, folk-rock warrior, occasionally within the one song (Patience). Disorderly, then, but he manages well.

One of the best things about this bloke is that, most of the time, he sings in his own voice. Sure, there's a bizarre Kingston edge in there, and a bit of Newbridge too (Dempsey loves Christy), but as he said himself – it's all good.

PERFORMER

Sometimes, he's angry (Bustin Outta Here – a "prison song"), and sometimes he just misses his dearest friends (the gorgeous Chris and Stevie). He knows he's all about "the misery", but every now and then, the forceful strummer with the diamond earring remembers to smile.

"Out of 550 songs, my friends, I wrote one happy one," he jests, ahead of Happy Days. The jokes don't stop there. "I believe Justin Bieber was caught spitting on his fans. Dickie Rock is suing him now . . ."

A consummate performer, Dempsey may be pushing 40 but he wears the look of a man who's only getting started.

The fans are in it for the long haul – they worship the ground beneath his feet, and he thanks them with The Rocky Road to Dublin. They're happier with the originals. It's all good, indeed. HHHHI


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