Dermot Kennedy at Vicar Street, Dublin, 22 October 2018
Central to the idea of a concert and unique to the medium of live performance is the wide-open line of communication the artist offers to their fans. Obviously, the reverse is true too. Often the best gigs are the ones where the conversation between both parties feels genuine and, at in the very rarest of occasions, moving.
As Dermot Kennedy finishes up the first of his two sold-out performances in Vicar street, we take a good look around the audience huddled together around us. To our left, a brother laughs with his sister who’s been crying for much of the gig. To our right, two friends are jubilantly singing arm in arm.
Kennedy took his modest bow and left minutes ago, the house lights are unforgivingly bright but the crowd is still cheering all the same. You won’t be witness to many conversations like that in your life.
The sway which Kennedy holds over his fanbase is a true diehard loyalty. The young singer-songwriter hasn’t even got a full LP under his belt yet and still his ‘hour and change’ set could have been from the greatest hits CD.
From the moment Kennedy and his backing group, which includes Meltybrains?’s drummer Michael Quinn, take to the stage there’s an instant and pervasive sense of familiarity to the entire set.
At times the gig feels like a grand singsong between old friends, instead of a new artist performing his first Irish gig in a considerable time.
There’s no mystery to Kennedy’s success. Hearing tracks like Moments Passed, Glory and his new single Power Over Me showcases just how strong the songwriting is in those tunes.
Moments Passed is a cornerstone of the set. The opening sample of which is crushed and distorted, spilling out over the house speakers into the awestruck crowd. For a moment it sounds as if something is going terribly wrong up on stage. Needless to say, Kennedy and co. have the situation well in hand. That first 30 second patch is the only moment of dissonance in an otherwise highly polished performance.
Kennedy has been relentlessly touring over the past couple of years. It shows too. He’s razor sharp on stage, at least in terms of his playstyle. The set is comfortable and well-rehearsed.
It’s fair to say that Kennedy’s older material doesn’t hold up as well as his newer stuff. When heard through the relatively nude medium of live performance, his older tunes feel distinctly like acoustic guitar songs adapted to suit full band performance. Sing songs like After Rain are a far cry from the intricate and precise arrangement of the haunting Moments Passed for instance.
That’s not for one minute to say that Kennedy is unable to shape massive crowd friendly choruses out of adept full band songcraft, just listen to Power Of Me, his latest single. Its performance is met with actual rapturous applause. Bear in mind that the song has been out less than a week and you begin to get an idea of just how diehard Kennedy’s fandom is.
The set is rounded off with a few of the Dubliners’ older tunes, much to the crowd’s delight.
There’s no encore, but with a near 90-minute set already down and a jubilant crowd left in his wake, Dermot Kennedy doesn’t need to play one.
A superstar in the making.