Gig review: Damien Dempsey, Glasgow

Damien Dempsey: Former boxer radiates strength in vulnerability. Picture: Complimentary
Damien Dempsey: Former boxer radiates strength in vulnerability. Picture: Complimentary
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Dublin singer/songwriter Damien Dempsey has garnered a passionate cult following – not to mention the admiring support of Sinead O’Connor and Morrissey – for his plainly but poetically expressed mix of the personal and the political, delivered in his own broad brogue.

Damien Dempsey - Oran Mor, Glasgow

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It is hardly surprising that such hearty and heartfelt music would go over well in the land which spawned The Proclaimers.

Like the Reid brothers, this former boxer radiates strength in vulnerability. The crowd were quick to chant for “Damo” and join in with the lusty emotional catharsis of Sing All Our Cares Away and Negative Vibes, both partly inspired by his struggles with depression, yet some chatted through the cautionary tale of Chris And Stevie, a tender but rueful remembrance of “two more young people cut down from a rope”.

Dempsey’s unapologetically strident and sometimes wayward holler is something of a deal-breaker, applied here with equal commitment to the angry Celtic rap of Colony, soulful urban paean Spraypaint Back Alley, the tricksy contours of Not On Your Own Tonight and the more challenging tenor range of Canadian Geese, which a cheesier performer might term “one for the ladies”.

It was softened by harmonies from his band on Almighty Love, the title track of his current album of “ten happy songs”, but given free rein to soar potently on the dramatic, stormy Maasai and the anthemic set-closer It’s All Good, both of which allowed his excellent band to take flight also.