by Toby Brooks
Photo credit: Acentric Magazine
Jack Vallier stands alone, centre stage in front of a packed Lemon Grove and warms up the crowd with his boyish charm and ‘sad tunes’, he leaves the stage as the crowd clap and background music starts to play over the speakers. I look around and find myself pleasantly surprised by the diversity of people I see - old, young, families, couples, students, avid music fans and people trying something new, all united by one common interest: Dermot Kennedy. The lights dim, and three men walk on to cheers and screams of excitement from the crowd, the musicians settle into their positions. A moment later the crowd cheer even louder as Dermot Kennedy takes centre stage. The first thing that strikes me is his humble appearance, no dancing or fancy costumes as he walks on calmly with his hands held together in front of him - confident and composed. My thoughts suddenly go to what could be so special about this man? Surely his live performances are no more special than his singles on Spotify?
And then he opens his mouth and sings All My Friends. The sheer power of his voice keeps the audience in awe for the entire time he was on stage. Throughout his performance he treats the audience to songs they all know while weaving in songs not yet released like the beautiful For Island Fires and Family and Power Over Me (currently Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World). Kennedy displays his musical prowess as he picks the acoustic guitar to strum along with his band, at one point doing so and leaving the microphone alone during a surprise transition from Dancing Under Red Skies into An Evening I Will Not Forget which lead to yet more screams from the audience as he embarks on the emotional six-and-a-half-minute ballad. By the end of the gig Kennedy has the entire room singing along to the chorus of After Rain, creating an intense atmosphere that rounds off an amazing experience.
So, did I enjoy the gig? Yes. Would I go and see him again? Yes. Did I buy the t-shirt? Obviously.