Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Up close and intimate

Jun 06. 2016
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Damien Rice strips away the backing for an amazing concert featuring just his vocals and a guitar
Fans of Irish folk pop/rock singer Damien Rice who have long hoped they would one day get the chance to catch him live saw their wishes come true on Thursday as the popular star made his long-overdue debut performance at a sold-out concert in Bangkok. 
The compact BCC Hall Central Plaza Lat Phrao was packed with mostly young Thai fans, eager to see the Irish singer whose stop in Bangkok was part of his Asian tour to promote his 2014 third studio album, “My Favourite Faded Fantasy”. 
At 8.30pm, Rice with a guitar strapped to his chest and no back up band appeared on stage and kicked off the show with the melancholic “Older Chests” from his 2002 debut album, “O”, to a loud cheer. Obviously not happy with the sound, he asked the crew to restart the system and while waiting for it to reboot belted out his early hit, “Cannonball” sans amplifier, prompting the fans to remain completely silent so as to hear to his beautiful, expressive voice au naturel. 
With the sound system once again working, the show continued with “9 Crimes” from 2006 album, “9”, followed by “My Favourite Faded Fantasy” from the current album and "The Professor & La Fille Danse”, a rare track from 2004 “B-Sides”. 
“How do you say thank you in Thai?” he asked the fans. “Khob Khun? That’s kind of difficult, makes it difficult to say thank you. Okay, this is a song called ‘Kob Khun’,” he told his rapt audience before asking fans to suggest a few chords. And with just that one phrase “Kob Khun”, he churned out a completely new song using layering guitar effects to render a haunting, atmospheric and moody track. 
Two more rarities, “What Have You Done To Her Face” and “Insane”, were up next, anchoring the performance to Rice’s more notable folk sound and setting a brooding, calming vibe with simple guitar picking and honest vocals. 
The sombre and gloomy “Amie”, another hit from “O”, followed, while fans again sat in silence. This was one of the very few concerts, especially in this day and age, where the audience was so consumed by the music and drawn to the performance that they did not even lift their smartphones to snap a selfie or record video clips. It was not a singalong kind of concert, either, as the fans |were totally intent on the performance and only quietly hummed along. 
Rice moved to the organ and worked his fingers on the keys for the intro of “She Moved Through the Fair”, a traditional Irish folk song, only to segue into yet another melancholic track “Long Long Way”. More folk laments, among them “Colour Me In”, “Delicate” and “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” were delivered, before Rice disappeared from the stage, leaving the crowd cheering and clapping for his return.
By now the clock had ticked around to 9.45pm and fans had enjoyed an intense, intimate and fulfilling performance delivered with great showmanship, musicianship and charismatic poise. Sounds of strings and backup vocals heard in studio recordings were stripped from Rice’s live performance and replaced by his raw heartfelt conviction and compelling and tight guitar playing. Many fans were in awe of his ability to grab their attention and move them through the emotional ups and downs of the songs.
Rice came back and asked the fans to make their way closer to the stage, with which they happily obliged. The encore delighted, with Rice performing such great songs “The Box”, “Volcano”, “I Remember” and “The Greatest Bastard”. The show concluded with “The Blower's Daughter”, Rice’s breakthrough hit. 

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