Damien Rice - Live from the Union Chapel

Thomas 12/01/2008

Rating: 3/5

I asked a Damien Rice fan and good friend the burning question regarding this release: Why would anyone put out a live album of a set performed and recorded almost five years ago, way back in February 2003? To cut a long story short, the friend in question had no idea why it would be made available now, her opening words being the simple yet effective “fuck knows”. Few casual listeners would surely bother buying a live album; Rice is hardly Led Zeppelin, but also not bland enough to be commercial in a 'present for mum' sense. Diehard fans meanwhile, will doubtless have these tracks already from the internet. Perhaps it was decided that an official live document was needed that included Rice's long term musical partner and co-vocalist Lisa Hannigan, who left the band in 2007. Someone ring the label, I have a Scrubs box set to get through (I'm kidding, it's South Park).

As a musical experience it's exactly what you'd expect: a perfectly agreeable snapshot of an artist who kicks against the oft-perceived notion of being some bullshit David Gray-esque strummer with an intensity and honesty that makes many performers sound like the lame duck, careerist pricks that they are. Almost entirely acoustic, the live setting allows an accompanying cello to swerve beautifully into the foreground on 'The Blower's Daughter' and 'Amie', while Hannigan's gorgeous soft tones beguile as ever. However, in between the bursts of feverish vocals and tuneful suspense, the many quieter moments often slip too easily out into the darkness, lacking the strength of melody to keep the listener truly immersed in the experience.

Three unreleased tracks are performed, including a version of Nina Simone's 'Be My Husband', but here we hit the second issue of the day: only eight tracks feature here in total - it's not even the whole gig, indeed just a paltry thirty-five minutes' worth. Imagine if the Strokes released a live set from 2001, back when they'd only written twelve three-minute songs in total, and charged you a tenner for it. They'd be swiftly hung high by their skinny ties. Simply put then, if you like genuine heart-on-sleeve songwriting and have somehow missed Damien Rice before, why not investigate his debut album 'O', and work from there. This record really is in no way necessary, and can be concisely summarised as:

Quality: Good
Quantity: Poor
Reasons to Buy: None.