Damien Rice - Manchester Apollo - 30.03.07

The lighting reflects the music, subtle, ambient touches are ever present, but are contrasted at unpredictable intervals by bold, glaring shots that are like staring into the sun. The earthy and enigmatic Damien Rice slips into the haunting, noire piano element concealing ‘Woman Like A Man’. Immediately his hardy but soothing Beck like tone, gives the slightly sinister and conceited lyrics a needed element of bemusement. This 2003 offering has the nostalgia seekers rubbing their hands and appreciating the rugged and searching start. The fluidity with which he flows straight from this into the Syd Barret sounding, older offering ‘Eskimo’, illuminates his appreciation for the live setting and his prowess in it. Of the low key, but chillingly congruous backing band, Vivienne Long’s double bass takes on a sound of its own and it provides a starkness to contrast with the unassuming but deep vocals. Long provides the weeping, tear inducing touch to the bracing B-side ‘The Professor’. Already eyes are watering like a maverick Devonshire gardener in the height of summer.

Jerking, distorted instrumental and vocal fuzz gives life, atmosphere and mystery to the music and the man. It also gives more profile to the wistful and subtle mood-building moments in which every word whispered from members of the audience, can be heard. Did you know that Julia turned down a job in advertising to run off to Poland with Miroslav? Vivienne Long is given centre stage, as Rice exits for  a drink break. She indulges a flighty folk, hip-hop and R N’ B moulding frolic ‘Never Leave’. This displays a free-spirit with a sense of innocence and naivety that seeps through in the lyrics.

A breath-taking piece of musical fluidity strengthens the live dynamic and keeps the musical arteries circulating soul, heart and rhythm, when Rice uses the natural momentum of the building set to give extra force to the Nick Drake fused ‘Volcano’. The prize for the eeriest outro courtesy of a dripping piano touch is ‘Accidental Babies’. This is after it has been passionately performed with seemingly more vocal projection than previous airings of the offering. Finale ‘9 Crimes’, sees the evening culminate in a wine binging, showy soloing celebration. Emphasising the point that you can embrace commerciality and still be closer (pardon the pun), to your roots, love of music and performing than ever before.

David Adair

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