Damien Rice Somehow Manages to Be Gross and Romantic at the Same Time

Damien Rice performed at Olympia Theater.
Damien Rice performed at Olympia Theater.
Photo Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

Damien Rice may have only three studio albums under his name, but the Irishman is considered one of the more influential singer/songwriters working today.

So much so, Ed Sheeran has his signature inked on his forearm and keeps one of Rice's used beer bottles stored in his pantry. Sure, it all sounds pretty strange — really strange, actually — but after seeing Rice make his Miami debut at the Olympia Theater last night, it’s easy to understand Sheeran’s obsession.

The evening started off with My Bubba as the openers.

“We met Damien last summer in a swimming pool in Iceland,” said My Larsdotter Lucas, the vocalist and table harp player of the Swedish-Icelandic folk duo.

After their very brief introduction, the ladies filled the theater with the hypnotic sounds of their voices, the harp, hand clapping, and guitar. At the end of their 30-minute set, the crowd was ready for the man of the hour.

About half an hour after My Bubba gave their thanks and bid the Magic City adieu, the theater went dark.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the show is about to commence,” said a deep voice, which sounded more like the opening scene of a horror flick. But before the theater began to run out the door, a dim light hit Rice’s face. And there he was. Almost on cue, the audience cheered for its favorite Irishman.

“Within every man, there’s two men,” said Rice in his first anecdote of the night. “There’s the man with sperm and the balanced man.”

After explaining how sperm can get you into “all kinds of trouble,” he proceeded to give the gentlemen of the theater some unsolicited relationship advice.

“If you find yourself sitting next to a woman and you just feel you’re about to explode, you excuse yourself to the bathroom,” he suggested. “Release your sperm, and if you go back and still want to kiss and hold that person, you know you’ve got something really special.”

With that out of the way, he went on to sing “The Professor,” followed by “Delicate” and “I Remember.” It may have been only the first three songs of the night, but Rice already had the entire theater under his spell.

It’s not like his fans needed convincing or anything, but watching him live took his music and talent to a whole ’nother level; his technique and dynamics – which went from soft and acoustic to loud and electric from one moment to the next – really made him stand out.

“That was really intense,” he joked after singing “Elephant.”

As is the norm at every concert, several fans shouted “I love you, Damien!” from the floor. The feeling, however, wasn’t mutual.

“I don’t believe that anymore,” he responded. “I had chocolate before I came onstage. I love chocolate. I mean, I love good chocolate. What do I do with it? I eat it up and chew it and take what I need from it and then when I’m done with it, I shit it out.”

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Rice is as much a storyteller as he is a musician. Before and after almost every song he performed, he shared personal anecdotes like attending Catholic school as a child in Ireland and being raised on Irish ideologies (negative views on the English and Protestants, to be exact).

While Rice admitted that most of his songs weren’t about love per se but more about “bitterness and jealousy,” he was able to find “the only love song [he’s] ever written.”

“Imagine it’s your prom night,” he said. “You’re walking and you’re so excited, and you slip and get muck all over your dress or pants or whatever, and you’re like ‘fuck.’ It really pisses you off. You get back up and then you continue and you fall and you hurt your wrist. And then, it sounds unbelievable, but it happens again and again. And then it starts raining. And then it just gets so bad that you just start to laugh. This song is about that.”

As soon as he began to play the first chord of “I Don’t Want to Change You,” the crowd cheered in excitement. 

But the most impressive performance of the night was “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man.” What started off as a slow melody with nothing but Rice’s voice and guitar turned into a multi-instrumental composition that had Rice rumbling across the stage.

With a few loops and live recordings, which involved Rice on bells, the clarinet, kick drum, and cymbals, the last song of his set left the audience in awe. It was strong. It was powerful. It was simply amazing.

As the music continued to play, Rice bowed, waved at his fans, and exited the stage.

But of course, the lights remained off. And, as expected, the singer walked out for an encore performance, this time with a glass of wine on hand.

“Somebody was looking for ‘Cheers Darling,’” he asked as he lifted his cup. “I found a glass of wine. Cheers for coming, cheers for listening,” he said as he proceeded to thank his fans and everyone who helped put the show together. Then it was back to business.

“This song is about a man who ran into a girl at a bar in the rain — literally,” he said. “She was running from the other corner of the bar, and they just ran into each other. He insists he buy her a drink. She says no at first but then agrees. They have wine.”

To make a long story short, Rice explained how this man falls head over heels for this perfect stranger. But at the end of the night, he finds out she has a boyfriend.

“So he gets a paper and writes ‘Cheers Darling.'”

It was the perfect ending to a quirky but oddly beautiful night.

After singing “The Greatest Bastard,” he grabbed his guitar and walked away from the mic toward center stage and quietly began to sing. Under the twinkling lights of the Olympia Theater, he serenaded “The Blower’s Daughter” to the entire concert hall.

After watching him for nearly two hours, we can totally see why Ed Sheeran tattooed Rice’s name to his body.

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Olympia Theater

174 E. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33131



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