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o'rourke's a master songwriter with a story to tell

Declan O'Rourke Vicar Street

THERE'S something wrong with Declan O'Rourke's guitar and it seems to have taken his string quartet by surprise.

"Yeah," he nods, pausing after an bum notes, "yeah, I definitely played the wrong chord there." Smart man. Smart dresser, too.

A shaggy-haired singer-songwriter from Dublin with a battered acoustic guitar wearing a suit on stage? You don't get many of those. But most of them forget the power of a sense of humour.

Funnier than Damien Rice and taller than Paddy Casey, Declan O'Rourke is still something of a newcomer. Three albums in ten years? It's not much. But it's been enough to push him out in front.

"I've been looking forward to this all year," he says. He's even prepared a (modern) yuletide classic. Well, if he's going to complain about there being no "new old-fashioned" Christmas songs, he might as well bring something to the table. With a bit of luck, he'll release The Start of Christmas next year. Cracking tune.

He's also gone and "crazied up" some arrangements, swapping his usual six strings for time on the keys. The "mini orchestra" to his right also does a stellar job.


Langley's Requiem, based on the true story of two brothers found dead at home amid heaps of rubbish, is an example of his quirky tendencies. "That's one to scare children with." Too right, Deco.

Later, O'Rourke dedicates Be Brave and Believe to Nelson Mandela and, at one point, gives a lesson in jazz. Actually, he just repeats a line he heard. "If you make a mistake, do it twice," he smiles, "then it's jazz."

Sometimes, O'Rourke makes it easy for us to file him under Emotional Irish Songwriter (Big Bad Beautiful World and the mawkish Marry Me). But every now and then he'll do something with his voice, which is his finest tool, or even a magic trick with his guitar that suggests he is more Ritter than Dempsey – and more Wainwright than Hansard.

A remarkable storyteller, there's a reason Paul Weller loves this guy. He's back at the National Concert Hall in February. You know what to do. HHHH

>Chris Wasser