Damien Dempsey at Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, 06 July 2019

A dreary and rainy afternoon has opened up into a dry and sunny evening, for what is sure to be a lovely communal singsong in The Iveagh Gardens.

A lone Damien Dempsey marches to the front of the stage, facing the lively crowd. “This is scary, I’m shitting a brick,” says the Donaghmede man, after announcing that he will start the show off a cappella.

“Will you help me out?” he shouts, before cracking into a spirited performance of Sing All Our Cares Away. This solo performance perfectly showcases the singer’s powerful emotive bellow, straight off the bat. “You’ve some voice, fair play to yizz,” says a visually appreciative Dempsey, addressing the singing crowd.

The band later join Damo on stage for a collection of fan favourites; Negative Vibes, Seize The Day and Bustin Outta Here, to name a few. There’s an intense but soothing reverberation from the band. Notably impressive is John Reynolds, his long-time producer, on the drums. This fierce performance is a key player in offering up a near-tribal party feeling, penetrating the bones of the audience, urging them to move.

Tonight is very much a friendly, rowdy celebration of having the craic, but there’s many a tender and touching moment throughout the set. Almighty Love butters them up before throwing out the tender and romantic groove of Hold Me, to allow the crowd to sway gently in song. There is a camera crew on-hand to capture the touching audience moments. “They’re filming a documentary called The Church of Damo,” announces Dempsey.

As the sun sets, there is many people aloft on mate’s shoulders, beery hugs galore with many standing in near-religious devotion; that ‘hands-in-the-air-tilt-your-head-back-sing-every-word’ mode.

Coming to the end of the concert, the crowd are treated to a selection of Irish folk classics. For Paddy On The Railway, the audience become joyously boisterous, with even a mosh-pit breaking out for the last big chorus.

As is expected for a Damo gig, the Northsider ends the set with It’s All Good. He drops his guitar at the end of the song and conducts the mass of people to sing along the repeated line: “love yourself today.” An impassioned Dempsey points the mic at the crowd with one hand and beats his chest with the other.

After dropping to his knees and giving a grateful bow, the big man walks off stage. The crowd however, continue singing long after the concert is finished.

While belting out the refrain, masses of people spill out onto Harcourt Street. Wary onlookers queueing for nightclubs are wondering are they about to be attacked by a rowdy mob of people shouting: “love yourself.”

Oh the irony. No, it’s just the church of Damo, coming out of Saturday service.

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