Damien Rice @ The Box, 10/18/14

Damien Rice liveThe Box is a venue best known for its club nights and racy burlesque, but a couple hundred audience members gathered on October 18 for a different spectacle: the final show in Damien Rice’s North American tour. Rice has been long absent from these shores, but with his awaited third LP My Favourite Faded Fantasy hitting the shelves next month, the Irish troubadour embarked on a short run of intimate solo shows. Trouble with an ear infection had caused him to reschedule a couple of shows earlier in the week, but as soon as Rice began his show, it was clear nothing was subduing the intensity of his voice.

The safe choice would have been to stay with familiar album tracks like opener “Delicate,” but Rice opted to move through the show with no setlist whatsoever. After performing “Eskimo,” complete with a segment sung in Finnish, Rice stated that he was thinking about faster songs. The call went up for “Coconut Skins,” followed by an optimistic fan requesting “Face,” a song Rice hadn’t performed in ten years by his own estimate. After a few seconds of tinkering with his guitar, Rice stormed through the rambunctious track and murmured his way through the lyrics that he no longer remembered. The cheers that greeted this performance were some of the loudest of the night, and Rice seemed to grow even more confident as he played off this energy.

For most of the show, Rice filled the room with his emotive delivery, shifting from plaintive and resigned to aggressive desperation in the span of a moment. When he reached “I Don’t Want to Change You,” the lead single of his new record, he was joined on percussion by Shahzad Ismaily, who was booked to perform his own show in the city later. Ismaily’s accompaniment seemed largely improvised but meshed well with Rice’s busker sensibility. When Ismaily had to leave during “My Favourite Faded Fantasy,” he slipped through a door at the back of the stage. A lesser artist would have been thrown off by the stark reminder of Freeman Alley being mere steps away, but Rice remained in the song and kept the spell unbroken.

Many encores can feel like a lazy obligation, but on this night, it seemed to be a gift to the audience. New track “Colour Me In” dazzled in its simplicity, and then Rice upped the stakes with another new song, “Trusty and True.” This time, he explained that he felt for audience members since he was not the tallest man, and he asked for a chair to stand on to perform. From this vantage point, he was able to teach the audience some lyrics and become a choir leader of sorts, breaking down the barrier between witnessing the show and participating in it. This moment would have been an idyllic end to a beautiful evening, but the applause continued after Rice made his exit. With a bashful stance, he returned to the darkened stage and stood on his chair once again. His guitar was unplugged, microphone pointed to the ground. Shunning all amplification and spectacle, he performed “The Blower’s Daughter.” Though the song is probably his most well known, there was no sense of going through the motions. It was a powerful moment for open hearts and open ears. When the curtain drew closed at last, Rice had given us nearly two hours of entertainment, most of the tracks from his new record, and a sense of awe that followed us out into the cool October night.

The Box
Older Chests
Coconut Skins
Then Go
The Greatest Bastard
The Professor
I Don’t Want to Change You
I Remember
Woman Like a Man
My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Colour Me In
Trusty and True
The Blower’s Daughter

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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