Damien Dempsey @Button Factory by Michelle Geraghty-2978Damien Dempsey at Vicar Street on the 22nd of December, 2012.

A Damien Dempsey gig around Christmas time just has all the right elements to be one of the most tempting shows on the gig calendar for the year. The people’s musical mayor of Dublin brings his nationwide sell out tour to Vicar Street to aid us in our yuletide festive excitement. Well not quite, but this concert still had some sort of true Dublin Christmas hootenanny vibe about it with even a few guests popping in to lend a hand.

The gig begins as most people would expect it to continue as Damo explodes the roof off Vicar St with Sing All Your Cares Away. Considering the vibes, a song about singing all your cares away and learning to grow strong has some sort of tinge of reigning in the new year. It’s hard to think of a better man to lead the procession in song than Damo as the crowd quite literally fawn over every syllable.

Negative Vibes, Almighty Love and Bustin Outta Here continue the buoyant beginning to a show that seems like it’s taking place in the Caribbean due to the sauna-like heat being emitted by the more than enthusiastic ‘Dempo’ fans in attendance. Just to aid proceedings, the one and only Sinead O’Connor joins Damo as his backing singer from the outset as she sings, dances and exudes all kind of happiness behind the man mountain of Dempsey.

Two more songs from the newest album ‘Almighty Love’ give the crowd a chance to regain their breath and rest their soon to hoarse voices. We scrap the hootenanny momentarily to enjoy a right old Irish traditional seisiún. Bag pipes, bodhráns and flutes lead the song as Damo and co. effortlessly rattle through this flawless piece of Irish music.

Colony, was next in line and still proves to be one of the most special songs you can witness on our shores in Ireland by an Irish artist. Even though the lyrics hark back to times of old in our nations history, it is also peppered with poignant lines that still ring true as much today, as when they were written in 2004-2005; “Greed is the knife and the scars run deep”, says so much about Ireland at this very moment in time. Call it what you want,  but the rap and/or spoken word juggernaut that is Colony would still make you be proud to be Irish as you roar “But if you’ve any kind of mind, You’ll see that all human kind, Are the children of this earth, And your hate for them will chew you up and spit you out.” with passion before sweetly chanting “you’ll never kill our will to be free, to be free” – a special moment.

Your Pretty Smile, Serious, Rocky Road to Dublin, Party On and Love Yourself prove to be the strongest run of songs on the night as everything just seems to drop into place on the night as Damo beams from the stage with utter joy. He leaves the stage to return only moments later for Not On Your Own Tonight, a beautifully delicate song in parts, poignant in others but no doubt one of his finest pieces of work to date.

If having Sinead O’Connor wasn’t enough for the big man, Glenn Hansard joins him on stage for two songs, ending in The Auld Triangle. Damo introduces Glenn as being the man who taught him how to sing with real, unadulterated passion and to believe in what you are singing about – something he certainly kept with him.

Unfortunately an awful rendition of Fairytale of New York comes next as Sinead O’Connor stumbles over the words on a number of occasions. It was always going to be a part of the set-list but maybe a bit more attention to detail would have resulted in a smoother rendition of Ireland’s favourite Christmas song.

Luckily enough, like all before it, Seize The Day brings the night to a rousing conclusion as Damo and his magnificent band rip-roar their way through one of the definitive Damo classics from very early on in his career. I said late in 2011, to make it your business to catch Damo in 2012 – well, I am certainly glad I did that.

Photo from Michelle Geraghty (Button Factory gig)