- Live Review
- 19 Dec 22
Freezing temperatures didn't deter droves of fans attending Dempsey's sold-out Christmas show.
Films and documentaries about musicians are made again and again – their music, and more often than not, their personal lives being the focus of the story. But when Ross Killeen released the feature documentary Love Yourself Today in 2021, it centred around the unique power and magic of Damien Dempsey's live performances, in particular his annual Christmas concerts at Vicar Street. The working-title for the film was The Church of Damo. If you've seen the Donaghmede Druid live, you will understand why. If you haven't, I sincerely urge you to do so.
I first saw Damien Dempsey live in the University Concert Hall, Limerick around 2005/2006 and I've been a loyal follower of the man ever since. His Christmas show at Dolan's Warehouse is something I look forward to each year, so nothing – icy footpaths included – was going to stop me from getting to the Milk Market last Friday night.
"You're in great voice tonight, Limerick," he declared midway through his opening song, 'Apple of My Eye'. Backed by his band, including longtime band member Éamonn de Barra and his celebrated producer, John Reynolds, on drums, Dempsey was visibly moved by the warm welcome he received from his Shannonside fans. The sold-out show was made up of long-standing fans alongside some eager 18-years-olds soaking it all up for the first time. They sang every word – all night long.
Firm favourites, including 'Chris and Stevie', 'Colony' and 'Negative Vibes', hit all the right notes with the crowd. A wonderful cover of The Pogues' 'Rainy Night In Soho' had everyone swaying along in unison. Released a mere three weeks ago, his new Christmas song 'Failte Abhaile (Welcome Home)' was met with a great cheer for its debut Limerick performance. Written by Damien Dempsey and his long term musical collaborator John Reynolds and Gary Brown, all proﬁts from the track will go to Focus Ireland. The festive spirit was kept alive with a moving cover of 'Oh Holy Night'.
But it was the 2003 track, 'Ghosts of Overdoses' that packed the hardest punch of the night. There was a palpable sense of loss and emotion in the air. The group introspection continued with the haunting, 'Not On Your Own Tonight,' as Damo roared:
'Cos if you feel real bad then you're not on your own tonight
Please don't be so sad 'cos you're not on your own tonight
Oh yeah yeah yeah,
You see I know the feelin'
Don't have to tell me nothin'
'Cos you know I know the feeling
Clenched fists were raised in solidarity, willing Damo on through this incredibly frank and personal song about throwing off the shackles of loneliness and despair. The raw emotion of Dempsey and his emboldened Limerick audience was something to behold. Whether it was your first Damien Dempsey gig or your fifteenth, the magic in the air was undeniable. If this is what mass felt like, I'd be there every Sunday.
The monumental 'It's All Good' was the perfect song to finish this night of goodwill. Standing in the heart of a city that's been plagued by suicide, it is hugely powerful hearing 1,500 people bellow Damien Dempsey's euphoric war-cry: LOVE YOURSELF TODAY.
Thanks to Dolan's for hosting an unforgettable night – and thanks to Damo for the music.