Dermot Kennedy at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on Monday 13th May 2019
“You don’t get that anywhere else,” Dermot Kennedy says to the audience with a smile, after the first heckle of the night. In the crowd a Dublin man assumes, while Kennedy is talking to the audience and sharing some artistic inner workings, that he is in fact having a one-on-one conversation. “It’s good to be home,” Kennedy confesses before a loud cheer from the masses
Earlier this year the Irish singer-songwriter went to New York to gather up all his songs and figure out which ones deserved to be on his soon-to-be hyper successful debut album. Since releasing the record there’s been a slew of big moments for Kennedy: TV show performances on Ellen and Stephen Colbert, along with a slot at Coachella this year. It’s been a journey from humble beginnings busking on the street to prime-time US and festival slots. Now he stands firmly at the start of a four-day sold-out stint at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin.
For almost every song, the crowd know every word. Particularly on an acoustic rendition of For Islands Fires And Family, the crowd are on every syllable. There is a beautiful communal feeling in the room, with the sound of the audience filling up the high-ceiling theatre. The stripped-down performance is a stellar showcase for the artist’s rough and emotive bellow.
Tonight, the band are thunderous. Many powerful outros and reworked intros take a boisterous life of their own with bassist Keiran Jones and drummer Micheál Quinn locking eyes and smirks for significant section changes. Not just to alert each other of the change but to ride the wave to a ferocious conclusion. Couldn’t Tell rocks hard and strong in the pre-chorus, with Kennedy turning to the band to soak up the energy. An Evening I Will Not Forget, different from the acoustic version on the album, gets its full-band sound tonight and the result is all the better for it.
It is the sort of gig where you can measure the impact that a song has had by the amount of phones in the air. Moments Passed strikes the biggest chord with the audience and the record amount of phones are raised to capture the moment. Even during the obscure reworked intro, with Jones hitting a pad playing various vocal samples, the crowd cheers in anticipation for their favourite song.
The few “wooooh Dermot Kennedy” screams have now become many “g’wan Dermo” shouts, as the crowd gets more lively. “We’ve been touring everywhere,” Kennedy declares, “like, really everywhere for the last couple of years and nothing beats this. I’m home for the week and I love it, so thank you.” The houselights go up after he says: “I don’t take playing in this room for granted ” and you can see a very humble young man stand back and take it all in.
With no encore Kennedy ends the set with what could be described as his breakthrough song: After Rain. It is the track that through a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist propelled the then street busker to a touring performer. The ending refrain, “you won’t go lonely yeah” is the final singsong of the night before Kennedy and band walk off stage.
The sticker on Kennedy’s guitar reads: “We want this to be good”. It was good, ‘Dermo,’ damn good. Welcome home.