TheLiberty is a local paper for Dublin's south inner city

February 2001

Hundreds enter Rice's Bedroom

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Dutch journalist Joep Conjaerts went along to Whelan's to have a look at former Juniper frontman Damien Rice's solo abilities


The concert was due to start at 8 p.m. but in good old Irish tradition, the doors only opened at 9 p.m. Of course, nobody was really bothered, except for some impatient foreigners in the queue. However, the late start of the gig was not due to any kind of tradition. It was because of Damien Rice himself, who later admitted that the delay was because of problems with the sound check. He is forgiven for this, because the musical delicatessen he offered the audience made up for everything.

People who attended Damien Rice's last gig in the Temple Bar Music Centre last November know he guarantees a great show with a range of impressive songs. This time, in Whelan's, he was without his band, normally consisting of Lisa Hannigan (vocals/guitar), Vivienne Long (cello), Shane Fitzsimons (bass) and Tomo (drums). All alone, except for his guitar, he had to entertain the approximately 220 strong audience, who had cosily taken their seats around the tables placed in front of the stage and on the balcony.

Two support acts played some of their own songs as an entrée to Rice. Pete Coleman played the first chords of the evening. He hardly had enough space to move, because the small stage was, on this occasion, Damien Rice's Bedroom Show, packed with a bed, a considerable amount of plush animals, candles and even a mini-bar. Nevertheless he did fairly well, offering the audience some beautifully performed songs, supporting his singing by guitar. After him it was Anna Scott's turn. Accompanied on guitar, accordion and fiddle, she managed to perform some nice songs, which at some points could maybe use some more refinement.

Then, finally, it was Mr Rice himself, dressed in his, probably favourite, red shirt (does he ever wash it?). Like in the Music Centre he started the show with the same song in which he lets all his frustrations and disappointments of love out and even ends like a French chanson singer. Many songs that followed could be recognised from the earlier gig and Rice played them on his own with similar, if not even more, grace as he did with his band.

There were more people than the expected 150, which was, according to Damien Rice, due to the release of another 50 tickets by Whelan's and some extra unexpected names on the guest list. Nevertheless, this did not affect the intimacy and you really got the feeling that you were actually sitting in his bedroom. Contributing to this feeling was the cheerful song Groovin', which he wrote at the innocent age of 15. For the song I Remember It Well, charming Lisa Hannigan was invited on stage to sing in a duet with her front man.

During the performance, Rice announced that he hoped to finish his CD within two or three weeks. After this he is going to London to master it. The first single will be out soon after that, maybe in May of this year and, after the release of a second single, the complete debut album can be expected around September.
He also informed the crowd about his next gig, the third since he went solo, which will take place again in Whelan's on March 23rd. "I've told the band about it but I haven't decided as yet whether it will be the whole band or just me," he said. If the sales go well for this concert, he might book the Music Centre just as well, mentioning "when the Music Centre is seated it feels like a concert while Whelan's is more like a bar, but I like the variation between the two".

After he played his last "official" song, he couldn't let the enthusiastic crowd down and returned on stage to perform another two songs. The purpose of the "bed room mini-bar" became clear when it was used by Rice to sing Cheers Darlin, which he sang with accompanying music pre-recorded on mini disc. It formed the "karaoke part" of the show, as he explained. In this song he pretends to be an old drunken man (and to make it even more realistic, Rice finishes a pint within three "giant-gulps" during the song), who is talking to a young girl in a pub.

About the actual meaning of the song, Rice only speaks in vague terms. "Well, it's a story in a story. It's a bit more personal then it may appear. It is about the old man in the bar, but through a certain experience I just thought: 'Oh my God, I am one of those.'" He definitively finished off with a new song, which was probably written to regain the lost love of a girl. For the curious among us; no, the girl was not in Whelan's that night.

With this gig Damien Rice proved again that he can get along solo perfectly well. His songs bundle power, irony and emotion and, performed live, they hit you with an exceptional beauty. Damien Rice: definitely worth listening to.