Cheers Darlin': Damien Rice Charms Chile

Anyone who went to Damien Rice's concert at Teatro Oriente on January 28 expecting the man to be as miserable as his music would've had the shock of their lives.

(damienrice-02.jpg Photo courtesy Grace Oda)

He might sing gentle songs about love and loss but he’s certainly no shrinking violet. Part raconteur, part comedian and like any yarn-spinning Irishman worth his salt, Rice charmed the pants off his audience. After a bit of initial uneasiness being alone on the stage, he soon was off doling out stories, jokes and philosophical tidbits between songs.

damienrice-01.jpg Photo courtesy Grace Oda

Playing in Chile for the first time and without his band, Rice appeared to revel in going solo. Surrounded by 2,000 anxious fans, the huge, unadorned stage at first seemed somehow too big for his small frame; yet there was a beautiful simplicity to it all. That night his band seemed as necessary as Christmas wrapping paper on Boxing Day, his solo voice so strong yet so fragile that even the toughest men in the audience were rummaging for Kleenex.

Known for his achingly lovely, melancholic melodies, Rice evoked the intimacy of his songs as if he was playing in someone's living room rather than in a large theater. Once he relaxed into his role and the lights dimmed, he unplugged his guitar and gave a gorgeous, completely acoustic rendition of "The Blower's Daughter."

The constant camera flashes eventually broke the spell and Rice softly chastised the persistent photographers and would-be YouTubers for missing out on real life, then promptly invited all those who hadn't been taking photos to join him on stage for "Volcano." Several hundred adoring fans leaped towards the stage to sing in harmony at his feet, filmed for posterity by their camera-loving friends.

There was no doubting Chile's reverence and love for Damien Rice, and as he laughed onstage and necked bottles of wine with two unwitting volunteers during the encore of “Cheers Darlin',” the audience got the feeling that he loved them back just as much.

With Rice, being miserable has never been so beautiful, nor so much fun.

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