Dermot Kennedy captivates with colossal vocals at Hammersmith Apollo
He may have a number-one debut album under his belt, but Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy’s approach to two sold-out nights at Hammersmith Apollo is a very humble one. Contradicting his distinctive colossal voice, there’s a dynamic stillness about him – few stage antics and a “thank you” after every other song. Above all, his performances convey a sense of vulnerability, with tracks that are simultaneously mellow and powerful, translated well from intimate album to big stage.
An apt introduction of An Evening I Will Not Forget mirrors the artist’s album listing, a quiet launch into a memorable show that covers Without Fear in near entirety. It’s followed by the popular Lost, which demonstrates lyrical poetry and folky soul, delivered in rich gravelly Irish tones. There’s a slight variation in styles throughout the evening too – from the hopelessly romantic What Have I Done, with a confident, marching drumbeat; to a stripped-back For Island Fires and Family that resounds mightily in a silent 5000-capacity venue.
In between tracks, Kennedy speaks candidly about his songwriting process; it’s clear this is as important to him as the singing. He shares how The Corner was written last year about “holding onto love for love”, whereas All My Friends is about “things you miss as life goes on”, with the latter’s chorus inviting an unprompted singalong from the collective of fans.
Moody verses and booming choruses form the general template of the show, with a level of contrast woven in throughout: nostalgic lyrics filled with heartbreak and hope; powerhouse numbers immediately followed by quieter, reflective ones, the animation of the 3-piece band juxtaposed with the singer’s stillness. Shadows and spotlights shine alongside the abstract background graphics, underpinned by bird-themed imagery both caged and free. It’s atmospheric but intimate.
Kennedy saves hearty renditions of his more viral hits such as Outnumbered, Glory and Power Over Me for the second half; with the anthemic builds from the band, these could easily have been closing track but the finale is reserved for After Rain, a soft, hopeful ballad that ends with audience vocals repeating the words “you won’t go lonely.” To the artist, it seems less about chart singles but instead his message of fearlessness reaching as many people as possible.
A thunderous, soaring voice means it can sometimes take time to land on a perfect pitch, but Kennedy’s vocals are simply too captivating for it to distract for long. There’s a sense that the crowd have been here since before the album’s breakthrough and this appreciation is reflected in the spontaneous outbreak of deafening screams right before the final song – to stunned silence. How easy it is to forget that just several years ago, the former busker was performing to strangers on the streets of Dublin; surely this is just the start of an even mightier ascent.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit Dermot Kennedy’s website here.
Watch the video for Outnumbered here: