Thursday, December 07, 2006

damien rice

Last night, Damien Rice (official site) headlined at the Paramount in Oakland and, thanks to James, Lisette and I were in attendance . The Paramount is a stunning 3,000 seat, art-deco theater constructed in 1931 and lavishly restored in 1973. It was also a perfect host for Mr. Rice and the four talented musicians who accompanied him during his 2 hour, 10 minute performance.

Damien Rice released his first album, O (Amazon), in February 2002. The radio-friendly “Cannonball” the haunting “Blower’s Daughter” gained him droves of adoring fans, and critics proclaimed the debut effort near perfect. His newly released second album, 9 (Amazon) is generating more mixed reviews. Some blame unrealistic expectations for their disappointment. The less charitable blame the more experimental tracks on alcohol, stardom or narcotics. However, these reactions are off-base. The new songs are natural extensions of the themes of the old, and they are emotional both on the CD and in concert.

The show kicked off with Rice alone at the piano signing “Accidental Babies” (9), a perfect showcase for his voice and lyrics. It ended with Rice similarly exposed, signing “Hallelujah” (a Leonard Cohen cover) without amplification and in front of the proscenium. In between, the setlist was varied and powerful.

Songs like “Me, My Yoke” and “Rootless Tree” from 9 and “Volcano” and “Cold Water” from O reminded the crowd that Rice is more than a melancholy balladeer. Vyvianne’s “Yoshimi” (a Flaming Lips cover) Lisa’s “Be My Husband” (a Nina Simone cover) and a spirited drum solo let his band mates shine. And, crowd requests “Women Like a Man” (The B-sides) and “Cheers Darlin’” (O) and stories from the charismatic singer kept the old fans happy.

Also performed: I Remember (O), 9 Crimes (9), Elephant (9), Canonball (O), Sleep Don’t Weep (9) and the unreleased Toffee Pop. The casual fans seemed dismayed at the absence of Amie and surprised at vocal distortion added to some of the angrier songs, but I found the effort to be well balanced. All in all, an amazing show and inspiration to see more live music.

Accidental Babies (listen to more from KCRW)