While Damien Rice, a native of Ireland, has not found superstar
recognition in the States, he has made himself into one of acoustic
rock’s premier artists. Accompanied by a cellist, drummer,
guitarist and female vocalist, Rice played a riveting show at
Detroit’s St. Andrew’s Hall that showcased his rock
’n’ roll tendencies. With this show, Rice utilized an
electronic guitar and various voice synthesizers showing not only
his capability to play high quality live shows, but also an ability
to alter existing songs and add new layers to his already complex
pieces.

Rice’s debut album, O, is a predominantly acoustic
collection of introspective songs that cover a broad emotional
spectrum. Rice used this range to his advantage, mixing intense,
spellbinding songs of noise and anger with slow, melodic
compositions featuring only him and a guitar. This contrast
developed into an emotionally gripping presentation that made the
audience alternately want to escape the tension and absorb the
show’s intensity.

Rice’s use of voice technology drastically alters his
material, adding a new dimension to his already potent music. At
one point, Rice recorded a live sample of the chorus and put it on
an increasingly faster loop until the song came to a muddled,
confusing and ultimately deafening climax. This sort of loud
experience came through in Rice’s remorseful “I
Remember,” as well as the metaphorical “Prague,”
each featuring the delicate voice of singer Lisa Hannigan, who
could hold her own as a solo artist if she wanted to. The
collaboration was not always effective: “Amie,” for
instance, ended with a crash that came off as clumsy and entirely
unpleasant. Rice redeemed himself, though, by ending the show with
a meld of “Cold Water” and Leonard Cohen’s
“Hallelujah.” The montage presented a thrilling
synthesis of the old and new, a perfect description of his current
sound.

Graceful one minute and artfully convoluted the next,
Rice’s live show presents a fantastic collection of
retailored and artful songs that are both captivating and resonant.
Utilizing the intimacy of chilling vocals and the commanding power
of audio technology, the presentation of songs provided a sold-out
crowd the chance to not only tap into Rice’s psyche, but also
to experience nearly two hours of emotional tempest.

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