Review of the gig of 21 December 2019, Vicar Street, Dublin, by Aislinn Wallace and Niamh McDonald
Damien Dempsey has been a powerhouse on the Irish music scene for nearly two decades. He brings a voice to the struggles of those suffering in Irish society and beyond with poetry and sincerity.
Damien’s Christmas Vicar Street gigs have become part of the Christmas calendar for many of his devoted fans. Saturday’s performance was no exception, with a packed-out venue.
Damien has never been ambiguous about his politics and his music reflects this. The crowd in the gig represented all ages, with an overwhelming working-class representation and with people from all corners of the island. Hearing the whole audience sing out songs such as Colony highlights the level of consciousness Dempsey has raised in his loyal fans over the years.
From the stage: Damien Dempsey live
From the stage, Damien spoke openly about his own mental health struggles; he creates a space with his music to help break the stigmas around mental health and encourage people to talk openly about their own struggles. As two people in the middle of a crowded floor we observed so many resonating with this message as they openly sung along to Sing All Our Cares Away.
Not only does Damien sing about the scourge of mental health and its destruction to so many, he also brings a message of anti-racism and the importance of the power of women to his songs and gigs. His music talks about the gentrification of Dublin and beyond in the guise of a housing crisis at the expense and displacement of the working class.
Damien is known for his activist and solidarity work, from supporting the anti-water charges movement, to singing at the Moore Street occupation, as an activist in Apollo House and supporting Repeal.
The range of influences in Damien’s music includes reggae, R&B, and Ireland’s folk tradition, fused to create a multi-dimensional sound, one that is accompanied by lyrics that convey a strong message of class politics in a way that everyone can relate to.
The value and influence of an artist such as Damien Dempsey to working class struggles can’t be underestimated: like many others before him, Damo’s sincere and simple music raises issues that affect us all and vocalises the social and economic issues in a way that resonates widely with people.
It’s accessible and revolutionary at the same time.
Damien Dempsey’s Soundcloud.