Dermot Kennedy @ Salle Wilfrid Pelletier – Place des Arts – March 2, 2020

Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy had just brought his Without Fear tour, which is also the name of his debut album released in the fall of 2019, through Montreal in October and wowed a packed house at MTelus (see Orcasound review here: So this was his second go round on the same tour and the venue was upgraded to the bigger Salle Wilfrid Pelletier (almost 2,500 capacity). He still sold out! Obviously the combination of his album gaining momentum and word of mouth from his first show resulted in music fans wanting to check him out. I don’t think anyone, new fan or a returnee, left disappointed.

The first thing you will notice about a Dermot Kennedy song or live show is the voice. It is effortlessly powerful. Different from the mass of male vocalist who all smooth things out and use falsetto ad nauseum, Kennedy has a rather raspy, gravelly voice which just naturally is filled with emotion. The end result is that you will feel everything he is singing.

Nothing about this guy is typical. Not his sound, which is rather timeless. Not his stage shows. If you were to compare stage shows to films, well if Lady Gage is a Baz Luhrman film then a Dermot Kennedy is a Noah Baumbach film. Meaning there is no attention paid to frills like crazy costumes or oodles of back up dancers, the focus is on the music. On the songs. While there was a discreet screen at the back of the stage behind the three members of his band which projected images, cool lights and the occasional fog rolling across the stage, it certainly does not take the focus away from the music. Even Kennedy himself seems happy to take a back seat often only half lit (hard to get a good picture of this guy!) and a very reserved onstage demeanour. While there is plenty of passion in his performance, it does not translate to him dancing or moving about the stage.

Taking the stage right around 9 p.m. with some hip hop beats still playing courtesy of his warm up music, it led to almost everyone in a seat being totally under the command of Dermot Kennedy. Often, especially during one of his infrequent talks to the audience between songs, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. That is typically the sign of a good show; the audience is totally invested in the atmosphere the artist is attempting to create. Do not mistake the quiet for indifference. There was still plenty of applause, people standing up to move during up tempo songs and a couple of people who repetitively yelled out “I love you” between songs.

Everything that happened had an authentic feeling to it. Nary a contrived moment to write of. Everyone was swept up in it. He sang. The crowd sang along trying to replicate his passion. Striking and raw. A show that repetitively encouraged you to be fully in the moment. Thousands connecting with the emotion and each and every one of the lyrics. That rare ability of, even in a room of thousands, making everything seem intimate and personal.

Opening up the show and really setting the tone for Dermot Kennedy was SYML. For those who aren’t familiar, SYML is Brian Fennell, who previously was a member of the band Barcelona. The Washington state native released his first solo album in 2019. SYML is Welsh for “simple”. This time he came with just himself and one fellow musician. The music he played was very much in the vein of the headliner’s and the crowd appreciated his earnestness and being appreciative of playing for them.

If you missed Dermot Kennedy again, don’t fret, it has been announced that he will be back again towards the end of summer as part of the massive Osheaga festival. Make sure you see this guy live! FYI – SYML will also be there with his full band this time.

Dermot Kennedy Setlist:

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

SYML Setlist:

  1. Symmetry
  2. The Bird
  3. Girl
  4. Clean Eyes
  5. Flags
  6. Where’s My Love
  7. Dancing On My Own(Robyn cover)
  8. Everything All At Once

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