Dermot Kennedy - Dublin

Review: Dermot Kennedy – Vicar Street, Dublin

Last night was something incredibly special for the sold out crowd gathered at Vicar Street in the heart of Dublin. It was night two of two on home soil for local boy Dermot Kennedy, the crowd welcoming him with open arms and explosive chants of ‘Derm-ooo’ as Part 1 of his sold out ‘Keep the Evenings Long’ tour in Europe came to a close where it all began. With support from Bournemouth born Jack Vallier, it was the perfect night to showcase just how far Kennedy has come, his captivating sound wrapped in the warm embrace of home.

It’s hard to fathom that just over one year ago Kennedy’s perfect juxtaposition of vulnerable, raw vocals with powerfully explosive urban beats was packed into Belfast’s modest Limelight 2 in October 2017. With just one gig, Kennedy had added a whole room of fans to the long line of those already following behind him, in awe of his talent. This is a line that has grown immensely in the space of just one year as Kennedy has seemingly made his tour bus his permanent home. Cosy.

In a mere 12 months, not only has he absolutely stormed the festival circuit with worldwide slots at Mopop, Rock Werchter and Osheaga (to name just 3 of 18), but also left a sold out European and North American Tour in early 2018 in his wake before his return to both halves of the world for his ‘Keep the Evening’s Long’ tour (also sold out, unsurprisingly). And here we are. Honestly – the boy has not stopped.

But wait…there’s more. With the release of his new single ‘Power Over Me’ last week on Radio 1, Kennedy announced yet another European tour in May 2019, with everyone scrambling from far and wide to snap up a ticket after those for the 2018 tour became as precious as the last slither of turkey for Boxing Day sammiches. A single announcement and a tour?! What else could there possibly be?

But WAIT…there’s more.

…Only joking. There’s not enough time in the world for there to be any more…for now. Kennedy has been the unstoppable gift that just keeps on giving this past year and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down, to the absolute delight of us. His dedication to and success touring is simply testament to his immense talent, his sound with a vast depth that swallows up anyone who listens.

The sold out crowd poured into the maze of a venue that is Vicar Street as soon as the door opens – a maze with a bar on every corner. Closing Part 1 of the tour alongside Kennedy was English singer/songwriter Jack Vallier, already known to anyone who attended the sold out UK and Ireland tour at the start of the year where Vallier also provided the support. Straight onto the stage alone, armed only with his guitar, the alt-pop singer dove straight into his first song ‘The Boy You Knew.’

Vallier followed with a set showcasing songs dated back to his beginnings in 2017 with the self-release of his debut single ‘Rebekah’, setting him on the road to signing with Method Records that same year. Playing songs such as ‘Good For You’, ‘If You Really Want Me’ and ‘Fair Fight’, Vallier humorously defines his songs to the crowd as ‘a bunch of really sad tunes’ about his ‘incredibly depressing love life’ and advises us to be ‘emotionally ready.’

The blending of acoustic pop with an electric atmosphere, along with his incredibly personal lyrics and warm conversation with the crowd make for an incredibly endearing set, taking control of the overly loud crowd well. The crowd’s constant buzz and chat battles against Vallier’s sweet vocals, but with a slight hiccup forgetting his chords during his second song, the crowd redeems themselves with explosions of applause and cheers to get him swiftly back on his game. Time will only be kinder to Vallier as his discography expands, his talent evident as it is laid incredibly bare with only his guitar and heartfelt lyrics. You’ve gotta hand it to him – at least he’s self-aware about those depressing songs. We will say though – you gotta get over your ex girlfriends, pal.

The time approached for our headliner to take to the stage and as we were plunged into darkness the crowd erupted, with Kennedy’s band filing on stage in matching black tshirts. A slight pause elapsed before Kennedy walked on stage under the spotlights and lingering smoke, diving straight into ‘All My Friends’. Also in a matching black tshirt, Kennedy and his band were like hippest, revamped 90s boy band ever, swapping the frosted tips and curtains for instruments and exceptional talent.

The crowd were completely transfixed from get-go, yelling along to every single lyric as the vibe of the whole room was transformed from the very first note. As seems to be standard for Kennedy in his live shows, the concentration was fully on the music as he went straight into the next song ‘A closeness’.

Known for creating songs that go beyond a mere start, middle and end, the set was more than just churning out songs. Instead, Kennedy and his band created an  amazing combination of music and stage production, spotlights perfectly timed with the rise and fall of the songs, making for a wholly immersive, intense experience that enveloped the whole room.

Performing every song the crowd could have hoped, such as ‘Glory’ and ‘Boston’ from his Doves & Ravens EP (2017), as well as new single ‘Power Over Me’, most of Kennedy’s crowd interaction came from the heartfelt background to every song he has. Speaking about ‘Shelter’, the young Dubliner explained ‘this next song is about when you want someone for a really long time, and that rare magical thing happens that everything plays out the way you hoped it would and its better than you ever thought it could be.’

This context is what defines Kennedy’s music and makes it so special – the lyricism of a poet with the amazing production of a seasoned musician, perfectly blending together to tell a heartfelt story with every release. His amazingly weathered voice tells each story to the crowd, loudly singing back each song but also keen to ‘shhh’ each other every time Kennedy speaks. The crowd certainly deserve credit for this, knowing when to reign in their excitement to allow for Kennedy’s majorly delicate and quiet discography to work its magic.

The well behaved crowd were treated to a few new gems as well as known ones yet to be released, such as unheard ‘Lost’ as well as unreleased ‘For Island Fires and Family’ and ‘Dancing Over Red Skies.’

As the set came to a close it was no surprise that Kennedy and his band gave no encore – and they didn’t need one. Closing on crowd favourite ‘After Rain’, Kennedy noted ‘there’s a part near the end of the song that, if we all sing together will be really beautiful and a really nice way to top off the night.’ And boy- was he right. Together, the sold out crowd erupted with the last lyrics ‘you won’t go lonely’, causing Kennedy and the band to step back as smiles grew on their faces.

The power and emotion in the room is something incredibly difficult to convey with mere words, ‘you won’t go lonely’ repeated more than the song warranted and allowing the whole room to close the night together. As Kennedy continues to tour, this amazing connection the crowd have to both him and his music will only continue to grow – and it is something we think everyone has to experience.