What happens when a singer invites the audience onto the stage?
A) 100+ people run down the aisles to join the fun (even though the singer asked for about 50);
B) 100+ people try to take selfies with the singer while he attempts to not be annoyed;
C) Someone leaves their glasses behind on the stage; or
D) All of the above.
McCaw Hall is perfectly suited for stripped-down music, and both Rice and his opener, Czech singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova used the acoustics to full advantage.
With barely even a spotlight, Rice took the stage to sing “Cannonball” alone, un-mic’d, with only his acoustic guitar. The show didn’t change dramatically from there, aside from using the microphone and various effect pedals to fill out his sound.
But after the mass onstage choir for “Volcano” (with questionable, but fun, choral results), it was his guitar, his voice, a little piano, and his huge Irish charisma that commanded the room. It may be cliche to declare that an Irishman has the gift of gab, but Rice was an often-hilarious, chipper chatterbox throughout his set – there were tales of songwriting (which is, apparently, often like pooping), observations of the Celtic Tiger from a Dublin apartment, and even a little Irish Catholic guilt over teenaged masturbation.
With only three studio albums released by Rice spanning thirteen years, the audience was in near-rapture over every song. There were eight years between his second release and latest album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy; but the album, and the performance, were worth the long wait for Rice’s patient fans.
The night didn’t only contain quiet songs of love, lust and regret with passionate vocals; there were swells of cacophony and massive crescendos aided by effect pedals on songs like “9 Crimes” and “Elephant.” The sound went a bit beyond the hall’s comfort level a few times, but it’s not clear if that was by design or simply by a slight miscalculation of sound levels.
Opener Irglova (of Once and The Swell Season fame, as well as her two excellent solo albums) opened the evening’s entertainment. She performed a lovely set, accompanying herself on grand piano; her plaintive, clear voice easily settling into the hall’s acoustics.