Dermot Kennedy started the year with an outpouring of critical acclaim in the 2019 tips lists, with the BBC including Dermot in their ‘Sound of 2019’ shortlist, being crowned ‘Best New Artist’ via a public vote by NPR Slingshot and tipped as a key artist to watch in 2019 by YouTube Music, MTV and Ticketmaster. Since then, he’s performed a sold-out run of shows in Australia and America including a stand-out debut at Coachella, as well as playing recent single ‘Power Over Me’ in his debut TV performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert followed by an appearance on one of America’s biggest talk shows with a performance on The Ellen Show.
We were invited along to the O2 Academy in Bristol to witness him, in his element on his biggest headline tour to date, here’s how we got on….
Kennedy was joined by Luca Fogale, a perfect support act for him as he matches his heartfelt lyrics first on guitar and then on keys where he silenced the crowd with his music all the away from Canada.
The crowd, impressed by Fogale’s performance is now ready for the main act, and the O2 is getting busier and busier as the 9pm start time approaches. As the lights go down and Kennedy walks up onto a raised platform the crowd responds as quick piano riffs from ‘All My Friends’ sound out across the venue and Kennedy dives into the lyrics, a song performed solo before picking up his guitar again for ‘Lost’ and ‘Young & Free’.
After track ‘Couldn't Tell’ Kennedy goes into his own little world absorbing himself inside the music of ‘Moments Passed’ with the vocoder screaming out behind him as he sings over the top.
Kennedy introduces ‘For Island, Fires and Family’ by telling the crowd that he wasn’t sure whether to release this track or not upon writing it - it’s about wherever your retreat is, whether it’s a person or a place, anywhere you seek comfort when things get tough and the crowd in unison sings ‘oh how it must feel to be bird’.
Kennedy explains how he is so happy that ‘Dancing Under Red Skies Exists’ a real treat for the crowd to hear this track which Kennedy blends into without introduction ‘An Evening I Won’t Forget’ which seems fitting considering the response he is getting from the O2 Bristol audience this evening. Everyone sings back the lyrics and all four musicians onstage submerge themselves into the passionate piano as the lights change from the blue to pink.
As ‘Malay’ ends and the room falls silent, the fan girls scream ‘I LOVE YOU!’ as Kennedy says a polite thank you, Kennedy has an amazing ability of drawing the crowd into a song by telling the crowd the general meaning behind the tracks prior to performing them live, It really injects an added touch of emotion into the set. Before performing ‘Shelter’ he lets the crowd in on how he wrote the track - “it is about longing for someone you cant have for a long time”, a deeply personal track for Kennedy and the crowd respects that, telling the disrespectful few laughing and joking to shut up.
We then get to hear the hit track ‘Glory’ before he introduces his band to the room, causing a roar of cheers as Kennedy plays the haunting ‘oohs’ of his famous track ‘Power over me’, a track the fans have clearly been waiting for but this is not his chosen final track, Kennedy goes on to finish with his 2016 single ‘After Rain’.
If you love a beautifully crafted selection of passionate love songs, Dermot Kennedy’s performances are full of them, you are let in on the song meanings, allowing the audience to feel the emotion they were written with. We had a great time and we hope to able to catch Dermot Kennedy live again soon.
Review and Photographs by Abbie Barton