Dermot Kennedy @ MTelus – October 18, 2019

An Evening I Will Not Forget was the song which Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy began his set with and it was how I began to feel as well. Going into the show I did not know tons about the 27-year-old having just heard a couple of his songs on Irish radio. When I left 1 hour and 25 minutes later I was a fan.

This happened almost immediately. Part of it was his beautiful songs but the major part was the man himself. He is very likable with plenty of heart and vulnerability about him. Then there is that growling voice. It has to be noted that props to him for being one of the few male vocalists operating today who does not resort to falsetto (I blame you, Justin Timberlake, for this!). His voice lends perfectly to the honest, organic and moving songs he writes and performs.

Emerging from the cloud of smoke produced by the hazers (one of the few accoutrements involved in this show), clad in a black jacket over a white tshirt and jeans and with some really cool and colourful Air Max on his feet, Kennedy and the three musicians playing with him all were upon black boxes of different heights. Really liked this because even a shortie like me could get a good sightline. He plays his acoustic guitar left handed. Obviously a humble individual, he seemed genuinely moved by the reaction he got from the crowd. Several times he made the point to thank those there for buying a ticket and knowing his music.

Often he sings with his eyes closed, seemingly wanting to really convey the true feelings of the words he has written. His voice filled the room and added a dimension to the emotions of the lyrics. Lyrically he is a rather poetic writer. He even mentioned how strange a phenomenon it is to have the words you have written which mean a ton to you lose some of their impact as you tour and sing them over and over. Thanked crowd for not letting that happen to him. This was a meshing of fan and artist. Both came together to feel the music.

The sound is rather folky, but also several tracks are imbued with hip hop influences. His most well-known songs, Outnumbered and Power Over Me, veer more into the pop world with their downright catchiness. Those two numbers really had the crowd singing and moving along to the beats. They really typify what his music is all about – affording fans the opportunity to sing along at the top of their lungs. Sing the lyrics which demonstrate that we are all human and can feel a sense of community through our shared experiences. The wonder of music done well.

Dermot Kennedy began as many musicians do, busking on the streets of Dublin and Boston. Now he is fresh off the release of his debut major label album, Without Fear, a slot at Coachella and performances on Ellen and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. While busking he gained a fan in Glen Hansard, another Irish singer and star of the film Once. Now he boasts a legion of fans in Ireland and around the world.

It is a show like this which leads me to wonder how music fans discover artists/music today. From the opening note it was quite apparent that the sold out crowd knew every word of every song. This lead to a wonderful feeling in the room. The crowd of largely female fans singing along with Dermot. On occasion he even got them to take over lead vocals and they were more than willing.

A Dermot Kennedy show is a rather stripped down affair. That is not meant to take anything away from it. What I mean to say is that if you are going to see his show there will not be large screens, pyrotechnics, choreography or high production value. What you will get is plenty of emotion, genuineness and an artist pouring himself into every song he performs. Everything about him is understated. Even on the few occasions he spoke to the audience, telling them about the song coming next, it was with a soft voice. During these moments there was plenty of shushing happening in the audience from fans trying to really hear what he was saying.

There was not even the farce of the encore. He announced that After Rain was to be his final song and the crowd broke out into the type of applause usually reserved for trying to plead the artist back out on stage for a few more songs. Even the unassuming Kennedy broke out into an ear to ear grin as he allowed the applause to wash over him wave after wave.

Dermot Kennedy will be back in Montreal again in the spring as a March 2, 2020 show at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier at Place des Arts has been announced. If you are a fan of real music then make sure you buy a ticket. You won’t regret it.

Setlist:

  1. An Evening I Will Not Forget
  2. Lost
  3. The Corner
  4. What Have I Done
  5. Moments Passed
  6. Rome
  7. All My Friends
  8. Couldn’t Tell
  9. For Island Fires and Family
  10. Glory
  11. Without Fear
  12. Outnumbered
  13. Redemption
  14. Power Over Me
  15. After Rain

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