Damien Rice - Manchester Academy - 14.2.04

Like an unpredictable force of nature Damien Rice's success in the last twelve months has been unprecedented. The diminutive Irish musician's debut album "O" has just gone platinum and tonight's concert is completely sold out. I know it's Valentines day but even i'm surprised by the influx of lovey dovey couple's gazing doe eyed at each other. At times I just didn't know where to look.

Unfairly compared to head wobbling muso David Gray. I see Damien Rice sharing the same passion, anger and artistic temperament as Bob Dylan. With a full band and animated visuals on a large screen Rice is making sure that his shows are electrifying. The jaunty "What I Ask Of You" has rocky guitar solos, a tight rhythm section and with two microphones Damien's voice can really soar. His female backing singer offers fine support with a voice not unlike Portishead's Beth Gibbons and the band jam with Damien with enthusiastic vigour whether they're playing folk, blue, funk and rock out on the more exuberant songs. The quieter moments enable Damien to express his truthful insightful lyrics in the best way possible with sparse arrangements, subtle and beautifully realized. His attention to detail on the fragility of human nature is a rarity, baring his soul with honest. Don't get me wrong though, Damien isn't morose or self obsessed, he simply tells it like it is with a sardonic sense of humour.

There's also a sense of frivolity and good natured banter especially when the cello player covers The White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army". Damien comes over all Thom Yorke on "Eskimo Friend" with backing vocals courtesy of his adoring fans who'll no doubt be caught on film as tonight's performance is being filmed. On this song Damien shares the spotlight with his exquisite singing partner as we hear two angelic voices in unison.

Unique, idiosyncratic, charming and undeniably talented Damien Rice deserves all the accolades he's been given, but when you witness the great man live you can see for yourself how great he really is.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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