LIVE: Damien Dempsey – Mandela Hall, Belfast

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Renowned Irish singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey returned to Belfast on the 23rd of February, playing at Mandela Hall as part of an Irish tour which coincides with the release of his new album “It’s All Good- The Best of Damien Dempsey”.

Opening the show were Dublin duo Morrissey and Marshall. Their folksy acoustic guitar playing accompanied thoughtful and uplifting lyrics. Their standout feature was their utterly gorgeous harmonies which were tight throughout and made the most of their strong voices. With a sound similar to the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, the pair’s performance was impressive and very well received.

 

The crowd were rife with anticipation as the wait grew for Dempsey’s arrival. Crowds chanted “Damo, Damo”, cheered and grew increasingly feverish as they waited, cheering and shouting. As Damien Dempsey took to the stage, the crowd went wild. Busting into his first song, the crowd sang all Dempsey’s lyrics back at him, prompting him to set down his guitar and have a back and forth with the audience, pointing the microphone at them as they sang their hearts out. This marked a recurrent theme for the evening; fans sang, jumped and danced along to every song and Dempsey included and encouraged them throughout.

 

The fans absolutely adored him and it was no wonder; Dempsey has huge stage presence to match his impressive 6’2 stature. His north Dublin accent is even more distinctive live than recorded, his voice far rawer, more passionate and much more “rough and ready” befitting his unique mixture of Irish traditional, folk and reggae. Performing a huge catalogue of his hits including “It’s All Good”, “Bustin Outta Here”, “Apple of My Eye”, “ Patience” and “The Rocky Road to Dublin.” Dempsey  gave a hugely energetic, raw, strong performance which was deeply enriched by his hard guitar strumming, the echoing drum beats, fiddle, mandolin, bass and guitar. Final song “The Auld Triangle” which Dempsey and his four accompanying musicians performed in five piece harmony a cappella (in commemoration of late Sean Potts of the Chieftains) was the perfect poignant finale to Dempsey’s triumphantly successful return to Belfast.  Una Mackle.