Damien Rice writes sad songs, but he looks plenty happy performing them live

Damien RiceBy Marc Fong //

Damien Rice //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
April 23rd, 2015 //

Damien Rice played the majestic Fox Theater Oakland last Thursday. Surprisingly, the show was not just a tear-filled two hours. Sure, the music was melancholic and sorrowful, yet live and in person, one truly gets an amazing glimpse into a great and multifaceted musician.

For the past few years, Rice has been pretty quiet on the show front. However, as hoped with the release his latest album My Favourite Faded Fantasy, Rice stepped out of those reclusive shadows and well, into the shadows of the Fox Theater.

Damien Rice

Rice began the show with only a dim spotlight illuminating his figure. The stage was dark and mostly bare, save for a piano and an awkward light mid-stage. He began to sing “Cannonball” like a ghost reaching from the shadows; his voice was distant and long, weighty with emotion. Standing five feet from the mic, his commanding, yet comforting sound filled the auditorium. The song ended, and the mesmerized audience broke the silence with a roar of applause.

Rice is known for his powerful, yet tortured songs and while listening to his debut album O sounds like the only way to mourn a matchless day of Tindering, one can likely find more cheery ways to spend an evening. Fortunately, Rice turns out to be as great of a performer as a singer-songwriter.

“A lot of people meet me and they say, ‘Hey, you’re not actually this sad man,'” he said during the show. There were giggles from the sold-out crowd, and Rice explained that sad songwriters are generally very happy people. “Getting out a sad song is like having a good vomit or shit after eating, you feel good,” he added.

Damien Rice

In between many of the wonderfully sad and heartfelt songs, Rice interacted and played with the audience. For example, Rice invited a young female audience member to sing with him on “Coldwater”. The young woman surprised the sold-out house and covered Lisa Hannigan’s part of the duet with a similar shaky, yet beautiful voice. For “Volcano”, Rice divided the venue into thirds and invited the audience to join in during various parts of the chorus. The din was at first unwieldy, but then the crowd caught Rice’s rhythm and the Fox Theater came together. The song ended with the multitude of voices breaking away like scattering birds, leaving us with only Rice’s soft whispers.

Rice’s live shows are unexpected. His music is dark and brooding, but watching him perform, one gets both the sweet and the sour that makes for a completely unique experience. Hence, the show was definitely this writer’s favorite of the year.

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