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Craig Fitzpatrick, 19 Oct 2012
Imagine the atmosphere at an Ireland soccer match – against, say, Germany – where we turn in a dazzling performance of skill, passion and verve and win with ease. I know it’s not easy, but, hey you gotta try! Because that’s what an evening in the big-hearted company of Mr. Dempsey feels like. The terrace-like chants of “DAMO, DAMO!” from the – admittedly predominately male – crowd ring long and loud from rousing start to celebratory finish, filling in any brief silences or pauses in between, buoying up the Donaghmede man’s modern folk songs.
Indebted to the indigenous, story-tellling music of old, over the past 15 years or so Damo has also started a rake of new traditions himself, implanting fresh singalongs in the public’s consciousness. Tonight is a night for more. Tonight, in short, the craic’s almighty. A career-spanning set, delivers evidence of remarkable consistency. It all circles back to ‘It’s All Good’, one of the melodies that made his name, deployed as ever at evening’s end, an anthem that offers lyrical hope but also no small amount of pain. Seize The Day’s ‘Apple Of My Eye’ is a tender thing, a lovelorn vocal carried along by a dancing flute. ‘Party On’, from Shots, allows the bittersweet taste linger in the air, warning against too many celebratory nights, whilst ‘Serious’ ties astute spoken word verses that recall A House’s ‘Endless Art’ to an aching chorus.
Of course, we’re here for an album launch. Though Almighty Love is only out a week, the newbies are just as well-received as the fan favourites. Indeed, there are even ardent calls for ‘Community’ until it is finally dispatched in the second half of the set. Every syllable is then bellowed back to the singer. Throughout, he’s in fine voice. Leaping nimbly from roar to whisper, that distinctive waver in his voice, part sean nós and part Cocteau Twins (really), infuses everything with soul and meaning. He doesn’t sing his words so much as live and breathe them. Dempsey’s band are as solid as ever, deftly reading and reacting to his every move. They whip up a trad session storm when the occasion calls, but generally serve as a tasteful adornment to Demspey and his acoustic. A new highlight, ‘Bustin’ Outta Here’, starts just like that before instruments are added and the whole thing builds and builds, to a cathartic final chorus.