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Damien Rice: Live From The Union Chapel

Damien Rice, Live From The Union Chapel

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

LIVE From The Union Chapel marks the first live album from Damien Rice.

The 8-track CD was recorded in February 2003 and is comprised of songs from the singer-songwriter’s highly acclaimed debut O, along with three never before recorded tracks, as well as a performance of Silent Night by Rice’s long-time collaborator Lisa Hannigan.

On several occasions, it shows why Rice has come to be described as “a truly bewitching performer” by The Times and “spellbinding” by The Independent. But crucially, it won’t persuade any Rice detractors that he’s sombre, self-important and even dreary.

As for me, I fall some way between both camps. There’s an undeniable power to his vocals when belting out hits like Rootless Tree (from his latest album), or some of the live tracks her (such as during the closing moments of album opener Delicate).

But there are other times when I felt this live performance needed an injection of pace and could have made me feel restless were I a member of the crowd.

To write Rice off as merely sombre or “just another singer-songwriter” would be foolish, though. For on tracks like The Blower’s Daughter, there’s an utterly beguiling beauty that really does mark him out as one of the UK’s richest talents.

Whether in O album form, or caught live at The Union Chapel (as here), it’s a heartbreakingly simple, yet achingly beautiful offering that’s built around some acoustic guitars and some wonderful violin. Hannigan’s participation, late on, merely sends shivers down the spine.

Volcano follows immediately in its wake and begins with a nice blend of violin and upbeat acoustic strumming that gives rise to one of the more vibrant recordings of this particular live set.

But Then Go and Baby Sister slow things down and strip things back to a frustrating degree and it’s during such moments that attention begins to waver. Lyrically, it’s powerful but the delivery – at least in this live form – is somewhat flat (and I know I’ll be demonised by Rice fans for writing this!).

Hannigan shines on the percussion heavy Be My Husband – another highlight – and even draws things to a close with a delightful rendition of Silent Night – but not before another piece of understated delivery from Rice on Amie, another track that left me feeling torn. It’s heartfelt, yet not really a stretch for Rice and seems to go nowhere very slowly.

Rice completists will doubtless flock to this live offering, particularly if they happened to be at the gig, but one feels that it’s for the loyal fans only except for a couple of brilliant highs.

Download picks: Delicate, The Blower’s Daughter, Be My Husband, Silent Night

Track listing:

  1. Delicate
  2. The Blower’s Daugter
  3. Volcano
  4. Then Go
  5. Baby Sister
  6. Be My Husband
  7. Amie
  8. Silent Night