Show Review: Damien Rice @ SDSU Open Air Theater, 5/1/2007

I’m not going to lie. By Tuesday of last week, I was already so tired that I was ready for a night in. But I managed to get tickets for Damien Rice back when it was a sold out show at the Spreckles Theater as a favor for my friend Shannon, so I was locked into reviewing it. And even though I was pretty exhausted, I figured a night out under the stars listening to some melancholy music accompanied by cello was almost as good as a night in on my couch. I’d spent a lot of time listening to O over the years, even if I hadn’t had a chance to pick up Rice’s new CD 9.

So Shannon picked me up and we headed over to SDSU. After scoring some sweet street parking, we wandered around the campus for a bit before finding the Open Air Theater. I haven’t been there since back in 2004 when I went to the FM94.9 Independence Jam, managed to miss half of Death Cab’s set, enjoyed Franz Ferdinand’s set, was thoroughly entranced by Muse’s set, and then left before the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s even finished. But we found the venue, ran into Heather yet again, then settled into our seats, which were good enough for us to not even try to abandon when Damien invited everyone to move down into the empty seats up front.

The first 5 songs were a mix of new songs from 9 (“9 Crimes,” “Coconut Skins,” “The Animals Were Gone”) and some older songs (“Baby Sister,” “Woman Like a Man”). “Woman Like a Man” was definitely a standout, with lyrics like ” You wanna get boned/You wanna get stoned/You wanna get a room like no-one else” contrasting with a sweet, innocent cello melody. The rest of the songs mixed in some of O‘s standouts, including “Cannonball,” “Volcanoes,” and “Older Chests.” In the midst of all this, the band decided to do a random improvised song, asking the audience for 3 chords (Am, G, C) and a subject (Rachel the newscaster). They actually ended up pulling “Rachel the newscaster” up on stage to perform a “news rap.” Naturally, the lyrics she came up with were a little disjointed – hell, if I were unexpectedly pulled up on stage in front of a bunch of people, I don’t even know if I’d be able to remember what my own name was. But it was really interesting to see the whole band come together so quickly on this jam, even while they switched up instruments. And watching Damien come up with lyrics and backing vocals was quite hilarious.

After this improv jam, the band closed with “Delicate,” and “I Remember.” Both songs are extremely emotional, and it was nice to experience them while sitting under a blanket with the cover of night above. However, if one thing was missing from the show, it was Lisa Hannigan on backing and sometimes, as in the case of “I Remember,” lead vocals. I look forward to seeing how her solo career progresses, but it was extremely strange to hear Damien singing the lines that I was so familiar with coming from her. But hey, such is life, right?

After an extremely short encore break, Damien returned to the stage to conclude with “The Blower’s Daughter,” and “Cheers Darlin.” The latter song was actually more of a theatrical performance, because instead of a band, he was singing to a backing track, while smoking a cigarette and drinking wine that was poured by someone dressed as a waiter in a fancy restaurant. Which, if you’re at all familiar with the song, fits unusually well, and it was a good way to end the evening. I left the show feeling utterly relaxed and happy to be in bed by 11PM for once. Ah, but such was not to be. No sooner had I gotten home than Pete called to say that him and the gang (including soon-to-be San Francisco resident Jessica) were at the Whistlestop. Living as close as I do, the only possible response was, “Order me a drink, and I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

Additional concert notes:

  • Celloist Vyvienne Long played one of her songs about halfway through the regular set. It was a very Lily Allen-esque song called “Never Leave You,” containing lyrics like “I know you’re selfish and I know you’re cold/But I know you’ll still be shakin’ it when you’re 65 years old.” Tres amusing.
  • Apparantly timpani sticks used in the place of drumsticks is the new hot trick. First saw it during The National’s set last October, and have since seen it with Do Make Say Think, A Northern Chorus, Explosions in the Sky, Republic of Letters, and Damien Rice. Am I just noticing it more, or is it really something that’s being picked up by more bands recently? At any rate, I love it.