with special guest: The Frames
April 07, 2004
Soul, Tormented Audience
On his 2003
debut, Damien Rice delivered a collection of ten extremely heartfelt,
low-key masterpieces. O managed to find its way on to
a bevy of year-end top ten lists, including ours, even though
it was an album to be taken in small doses; it was an album you
could only listen to at certain times when you were emotionally
prepared for it. Through its success, Damien Rice found himself
nestled amongst the singer-songwriter crowd as one of its quietist,
albeit respected voices.
recent performance at Madison's Barrymore Theatre (his other recent
performances tend to follow this same trend, I'm told), Rice's
position may be in for quite a change. In what became the norm
for the night, Rice nearly abandoned his "songwriter-lite"
image by indulging in his recent notion that songs are much more
meaningful when they end in screaming fits.
"The Blower's Daughter" and "Amie," both relatively
lightweight but powerful fare from O, opened to tremendous
response from the sold-out crowd. But as each of these songs (and
every other one, for that matter) progressed, they built into
full-blown fits of screams and ear-splitting guitar. This, along
with an instance where the final lyrics from "The Blower's
Daughter" were sampled, and then endlessly repeated, then
sung over out of key, and sampled, and repeated, and were further
joined by off-key noise from his guitar, and sampled, and turned
up to painful volumes sent Rice into territory where the audience
was noticeably turned off and confused. Whether it was equipment
malfunction, or purposeful manipulation, or a combination of the
two remains unknown. It was evident at this point, however,
that Rice harbored some notion of himself as a damaged artist.
it was around this part of the show (only about three songs in
actually), that I began to question just what Rice was trying
to accomplish and why I even bothered sticking around. Yet, after
a remarkably odd experience with "Amie" where Rice felt
it necessary to sit on the ground, look up to the sparkling lights
on the ceiling (spotlight focuses on him) and contemplate whatever
it was he was contemplating while doing some sort of synthesized
space-ship landing sequence, it became evident that Rice is no
longer in the same mindset he was in when he first recorded O.
all was disheartening on this Wednesday night. Lisa Hannigan's
backing vocals were tremendously powerful (although it was clear
even she had no idea how to respond to Rice's slow downward
spiral from a drummer vs. guitar percussion contest that turned
into an oddly pathetic beatboxing bout from Rice). Likewise, cellist
Vivienne Long's playing was absolutely gorgeous, albeit outweighed
and overwhelmed by Rice's "screamo" attitude.
Word on the
street is that Rice's new work, set for possible release later
this year, will involve much more of this new sound. If this is
the case, an audience reaction closely follows what transpired
this fateful evening, Rice may find himself a truly damaged artist,
for then he will really know abandonment.
liked Damien Rice...