Sunday, 1 February 2015

Colour me in

At the end of Closer Natalie Portman walks down a crowded road in New York in slow(er) motion as The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice plays. From that moment onward I have been a fan of this man's music. He had not released any new material in years so I never imagined I would get to see him live. But my friend wrote me an email saying that he would be in Zürich and that both of us would miss this show since she was not home and I was in SA. However, he was ON TOUR and would be in Berlin in November. In a somewhat strange situation I joined his mailing list while boarding a plane to Istanbul in Johannesburg (the mailing list people would be able to book tickets a few days earlier and I was certain the show would sell out instantaneously). Then after a few days I waited in front of the only computer in our hostel to buy the tickets. Luckily all the cyberactivity paid off and I reserved two tickets in the third row.

In the end no one could come with me, but in the event's FB group I found another student who also really wanted to go so the two of us met up at the concert and settled in. The show was held at the Admiralspalast, an old theatre with lush red seats and a beautiful ceiling in central Berlin. It was a very mixed crowd, with people from all walks of life attending.

The opening act consisted of two ladies, one from Iceland and one from Sweden, called My Bubba. One of them was wearing black pants with white horses printed on them, so I was already won over. They sang quite softly, wherefore I (and most people in the audience, judging from the occasional 'We can't hear you' shouts) couldn't really hear the lyrics. One song stood out: they only used clapping as 'instrument' (it is called Dogs Laying Around Playing, the video is also rather sweet).

Damien Rice then started 15 minutes late (in Germany! Oh no! The tardiness!). But he made everything so cool: as he was playing his first song people still kept coming in and finding their seats. As he was strumming on his guitar he would say : "Ah fuck, where is seat 17, fuck, sorry" or "I know I am late, but you are realllly late", which made the entire atmosphere of the theatre very intimate and familiar. What follows was the best concert of my life. Just him, the guitar, and a stage show that consisted mainly of different nuances of light and darkness. Sometimes Damien had one spotlight on him, sometimes hundreds of LEDs shone in the background as he was hidden in the blackness. Sometimes we all listened, enraptured, and at other times we all sang along, forming a canon with older hits. Damien would also ask the audience to shout what song they wanted to listen to and would then play well-known and obscure songs, joking in between about his long absence: "You know how you get up, go to work, go to bed and wake up the next day to do it all again? Well, I woke up 7 years later". The concert lasted for more than two hours, and what made it so wonderful was how one got to see a great performer at work. Damien Rice does not need a spectacular stage show or large band or a whole horde of other people on stage to make his presence felt. At times he even sang without the microphone and still the entire theatre was filled with his voice.

After two encores I left to catch the last train home, elated by this performance. Having someone to go to concerts with is great, but in all honesty I was happy to have seen him on my own, because at this concert I never felt alone.

The next day I went for dinner with my father and two others and saw that Damien was playing a secret show at a hotel nearby. Man, I wanted to jump into the nearest metro and head over, but was emotionally bullied into remaining at the restaurant (which was not a great decision, because I simply did not speak for the rest of the evening). Fortunately, the Michelberger Hotel filmed the performance, which is a shorter version of the Admiralspalast concert. Here is the link:

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