There is no two ways about it; a Damien Dempsey show is always going to be special, when it’s part of a double header involving Liverpool’s own Amsterdam then it’s going to considered the type of brilliant evening that anything else going on in Liverpool that night may as well resign itself to being relegated to small talk the following morning.

Damien Dempsey weaved together the type of show that brought many of his fellow Irishmen across the sea to attend as they freely mixed with the locals that had mainly come out with the great memories of Damien’s gig in the University of Liverpool last year still firmly in the minds. Arriving on stage to the type of hero’s welcome reserved for the likes of Ian Prowse, Ian McNabb or Paul McCartney, Damien and his band delivered a set that was passionate, well thought out and guaranteed to be enjoyed by all.

Damien opened the evening of the Liverpool Irish Music Festival with Sing All Our Cares Away, Negative Vibes and Your Pretty Smile which had the audience singing loudly and getting many approving nods from the man on the stage.

No matter what though, the evening is not just about Damien, as you do need musicians of high quality to give the effect and same degree of passion that Damien demands to give to his audience at any gig, and in that Damien was joined on stage by Eamonn Debarra on keyboards, whistle and flute, guitarist John McLoughlin, John Reynolds on drums, the fantastic Clare Kenny on bass and for a short while, Amsterdam’s Anna Jenkins on violin who stood proudly as the bridge between the two headline acts on show during the evening.

The evening and the music rose in intensity as Damien began to feel more and more welcome in a city he openly admits to loving, and as he and the band played songs such as Seize the Day, the stunning Rocky Road to Dublin and the much called for Party On. It has to be said there are few artists living in Ireland today that can get the type of response from a very impressed crowd than Damien did at this launch for the Liverpool Irish Music Festival.

With the Amsterdam members off stage and forthright in their congratulations to a much vaunted living legend, Damien finished a high tempo and energetic set with the classic Its All Good. Never was a song more appropriate.

5 stars

Ian D. Hall