A good show does not always need fancy visual effects or a stadium-sized crowd. Just ask Damien Rice, who only needed a worn-out guitar, a single spotlight and his familiar voice to bring the house down last week at Wan Chai’s Vine Centre. Despite the simplicity and intimacy of the set-up, the atmosphere was electric.
After walking onstage to a roomful of screaming fans, the messy-haired Irishman greeted his audience with Older Chests, a track from his 2002 debut, O. Soft ballad 9 Crimes, the most poignant performance of the set, may not have featured the female vocals of the studio version, yet turned out just as emotional and pleasant as on record.
Hit single The Blower’s Daughter and the folk-infused Trusty and True gave a lot of vulnerability to the stripped-down show.
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Just as the audience may have started to notice the absence of a full band, Rice stepped on his effects pedal and his acoustic guitar sound was given an electric makeover. Rice became something of a one-man band at this point, switching easily between playing different instruments. The sounds from each instrument were then looped together, making it hard to believe that there wasn’t a full band playing behind the curtains.
Rice’s voice can change from a raspy, falsetto tone to that of a rock and roll artist in a split second, leaving the audience in awe of this vocal techniques, as well as his abilities to turn his simple melodies into something varied and unexpected.
It may have been a low-key affair, but Rice is still an entertainer who likes to add an element of surprise for fans. Just as the show seemed to be coming to an end, Rice invited a female fan onstage to serenade as his special guest. As he sang the first few lines of his song, Cheers Darlin’, he’d occasionally break off to raise a glass, echoing the words he was singing.
For a singer who rarely engages directly with fans, Rice showed off a dry, and charming sense of humour. He combined his famously mesmerising voice with tongue-in-cheek cheesy pick-up lines to make one girl’s day and sweep everyone else off their feet at the same time.