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Damien Rice’s Triumphant Return at the Beacon Theatre

April 6th, 2015

Damien Rice – Beacon Theatre – April 4, 2015

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It’s been a very long eight years without Damien Rice’s moody, heart-aching ballads. And there’s something to be said about stretches of absence that perpetrate a yearning desire for an artist’s new material. Rice isn’t the kind of guy who’s rolling in the green, but rather he’s the type of guy who moves from his native Ireland to Iceland to renew his love for making music. Finally, back with his long-anticipated third studio album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, he’s embarked on a tour minus his longtime collaborator, Lisa Hannigan, who’s set off on her own solo effort. And for this longstanding fan, it was hard news to take as the two truly complemented each other, but Rice’s headlining set at a sold-out Beacon Theatre on Saturday night provided a bittersweet reprieve.

Beginning the show literally on his knees, Rice opened with an acoustic rendition of “My Favourite Faded Fantasy” before taking his place behind the microphone for “9 Crimes.” The set interweaved his last album with treasured fan favorites. And thanks to his Irish brogue, women in the balcony requested he take of his shirt, but Rice playfully responded by serenading them with “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” instead. I’m sure another gent in the audience, Mr. Jon Bon Jovi, appreciated the ploy. As if that weren’t cheeky enough, Rice requested some wine only to raise his glass while commencing with an old favorite, “Cheers.” From lyrics to personal reflections, he philosophized throughout the night about the driving theme in his songs—love. It takes a lot for a solo artist to command a stage like the Beacon, but Rice made it seem effortless as he rode old tunes to new and imaginative heights. That was especially true for “I Remember,” when he had to make up for the missing duality of Hannigan’s chilly work, which was acknowledged by an outspoken fan who yelled, “Where’s Lisa?”

With the performance drawing to a close, Rice returned for an encore with a harmonium-accompanied version of “Long Long Way,” a rollicking “Volcano” and “The Greatest Bastard.” Introducing his fellow countryman with sentimental stories about seeing him as a teenager, Glen Hansard took the stage unprepared but still managed a flawless take of “High Hope.” To cap off the night, the two covered Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a location-appropriate nod to the Big Apple and its history of folk singer-songwriters. —Sharlene Chiu