Live Review: Damien Rice stuns us into silence at the Sydney Opera House (11.05.23)

  • Chris Singh
  • May 14, 2023
  • Comments Off on Live Review: Damien Rice stuns us into silence at the Sydney Opera House (11.05.23)

Five songs into his spellbinding set, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice genuinely lets the crowd decide what he’s going to play next. There are screams. Many. And just about every single one of them are shouting out a different song title (the winner was “Woman Like A Man”)

Such is how highly regarded Rice is amongst his fans. If you love Damien Rice then you love him. If you don’t, then you just haven’t really listened to him.

And look, I wouldn’t blame anyone in the latter camp. Damien Rice sings love songs. But these are love songs from a man who has a deep and unfortunate understanding of love in the 21st century. And how love is not love, but pain, jealousy, obsession, mental illness, codependence and alcoholism. Love songs are not happy songs.

There are many themes strung throughout Rice’s songs, and almost none of them are uplifting. Rather, Rice is more concerned with the kind of art that helps you speak to your own pain and make sense of it, to label it and give it anthems. Listening to Damien Rice is both painful and absolutely beautiful. Like true art.

And that’s what was on display as the singer, evidently in high spirits and awkwardly charming throughout, fell into the crowd and encouraged us to fall back into him. Early stunners like “Old Chest” and “Delicate” showed this early on. It primed us for the emotional gut-punch Rice was about to deliver with songs like “9 Crimes” and “Cannonball”.

I must give a special nod to just how rare this moment was. Damien Rice rarely tours. He is like a highly sought, incredibly rare Irish whisky that’s only released in limited batches every few years. To get your senses around what Rice is offering feels special. It was special.

Rice’s set was special until the very closing moments of “The Blower’s Daughter,” treated with complete sensitivity to the beloved recorded version. Yet, the singer’s charming interludes and on-stage changes were always the highlights, whether he was engulfed by a tempestuous rock breakdown set against storm-like strobes as if we were witnessing a King Lear production, or working beautifully with a violinist (whose name escapes me) who complemented his music so well.

The Irish troubadour is perfect in the sense that his caustic lyrics cut so deeply for so many. Made even more perfect by his intensely relatable demeanor on stage, equal parts aloof and cocksure.

It’s rare that I’d see a concert and walk away thinking “yeah, there’s nothing I would have changed about that, if I could.” I thought that about Damien Rice. I thought it a few times and I’m thinking it now. It was perfect.


Feature image by Mikki Gomez.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.