There's (At Least) 5 Reasons You Should Go See Damien Rice

There’s (At Least) 5 Reasons You Should Go See Damien Rice

It was a dark and stormy night… seriously.  Last Friday I attended Damien Rice’s show at the Greek Theater under an appropriately cloudy and sulky sky (uncommon here in LA).  For those who don’t know, Damien Rice is an Irish singer-songwriter with some fairly big hits like 9 Crimes and The Blower’s Daughter.  This was the final night of his US tour.

His show was excellent.  Inspiring.  It reminded me of everything that’s beautiful and fun about singing and songwriting.  He ran through a setlist that included his recent album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, as well as some older classics.

This is one of the best shows I’ve been to in ages.  There’s (at least) five reasons why:

Damien Rice Black and White Headshot1.  His Voice

Holy cow!, that guy’s voice.  Big enough to fill the Greek Theater and beyond with just his own, single voice.  During his second song I messaged a singer friend:

“Watching Damien Rice at the Greek.  Angela, how do I sing like this guy?  Do you have magic pills for that?”

Short answer:  No.  She doesn’t.

2. His Guitar Playing 

Damien Rice's Lowden GuitarSensitive and dynamic, but not flashy.  He plays an old Lowden S10 (http://www.lowdenguitars.com/).  He doesn’t do solos per se, he doesn’t do intricate riffs, and he doesn’t do instrumentals.  But the chords are always rich and complex, his tone is great, and he makes incredible use of dynamics.  I’ve never heard someone get such a dynamic range out of a single acoustic guitar – from soft fingerpicking, to huge distortion.

 3. His Effects

Speaking of that distortion, Rice goes unconventional on acoustic guitar effects.  He uses distortion to heighten certain chorus and bridge sections of his songs.  It’s a bit like that old Spinal Tap joke.  You know, the one where the amp goes to 11?  In Rice’s case, when the acoustic guitar’s natural volume just wasn’t big enough for certain sections, he’d hit the pedals and…boom.  Eleven.

Rice uses a selection of pedals to provide delays, distortion, and looping:

  • Vox Wah (link)
  • MXR M-133 Micro Amp (link)
  • Boss TU-2 (link)
  • Boss LS-2 (link)
  • Ernie Ball Volume (link)
  • Line 6 DL-4 (link)

You can see some discussion threads on his gear and effects here, here, and here.

4. His Stories

He’s a funny, winsome guy.  He uses the f-word more than the coach of the Cincinnati Reds.  And he told a lot of great stories about Ireland, his youth, and random bits of wisdom.

His greatest story was about success.  He said that he used to have a bunch of checkboxes that he wanted to ‘tick off’.  Things he wanted to accomplish, experience, whatever.  Then he woke up one day and found he’d ticked a whole bunch of the boxes off.  But then he said he found that after he realized this, he was miserable.  “Feckin’ miserable”, to quote him exactly.  You’re happiest, he says, when you’ve got things you want to do in life.  And if you think you’ll be happy when you finally arrive, don’t believe it.  You’re already there.

5.  His Wizardry

The most amazing thing, of course, is that he held the entire Greek Theater spellbound for over 2 hours with nothing more than his acoustic guitar and a microphone.  Sure, there was a glass of wine, some distortion boxes, a jacket borrowed from somebody in the front row, and that random guy he invited up at the end to help him sing the final chorus.  But let’s not muddy the waters.  He was impressive.

Damien Rice, "9 Crimes", live at The Greek Theatre (April 24, 2015)

  • Aarón Lee

    I’ve been an avid fan of Damien since the day I discovered his music like 10 years ago and since that very day I wanted to see him live, fortunately I was able to see him at Plaza Condesa in Mexico City last April on a monday night and it was an unbelievable experience.

    He opened the concert with Delicate and it felt surreal. His voice and guitar are amazing and it is impressive what he can pull off with only his voice, guitar and a microphone (no piano this time). The effects he manages to get with his guitar are unbelievable, he is truly gifted with that instrument. I felt chills in everyone of his songs, and being a big fan I knew all the lyrics -of course. I do not know exactly which guitar he used but it sounded amazingly. One of the best moments of the night was he shutting up everybody and telling his engineer to turn off every microphone to then sing Cannonball…just his voice and guitar to fill up the place, and he managed to do that.

    What a night! Just above hour and a half but excellent show nonetheless and will undoubtedly go see him again when the chance comes.

    Just wanted to share after reading your article.I totally agree with you.

    • guitarjournal

      Hey Aaron, thanks for sharing your experience. I totally agree, it’s amazing what he can pull off with just his voice and a guitar!