Arts & Entertainment

Off Track: Damien Rice

Longing For Lisa

Damien Rice played a sold-out D.A.R. Constitution Hall last Friday night and, while his creative side was on full display, the absence of recently-departed female vocalist Lisa Hannigan was keenly felt.

Hannigan ended her association with Rice just prior to this tour in order to pursue solo projects and work with boyfriend Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol. Without her, Rice’s mainstay works like “Volcano,” “The Blower’s Daughter” and “9 Crimes” lacked the sweetness that made those songs so indelible on the album and unforgettable when played D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre last December. Instead, they adopted a more forceful, angrier edge that dimmed some of those songs’ sympathetic qualities. The show was also marked by the absence of cellist Vyvienne Long, who never appeared on stage, though her instrument sat out throughout the night’s set.

What rescued the show from the letdown of the not-quite-leading ladies’ nonattendance was Rice’s skill and creativity as a performer. Rice alternated rocking out on tracks like “Me, My Yoke” and “Woman Like a Man” with the whispery “Accidental Babies,” also reworking the raging “Rootless Tree” into a somber piano ballad. For all of Hannigan’s handy work on Rice’s catalog, the songs are still his and he’s more than adept at milking the most out of them with whatever is available.

Still, it was sad to compare this show to the masterpiece played just six months ago at Lincoln Theatre, and it’s a legitimate question to ponder whether or not Rice can again reach such a level without Hannigan or another female complement.

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