Dermot Kennedy at Amoeba, Tuesday October 29th 2019
Dermot Kennedy sings with a loud and very powerful voice, and with or without a mic, I am certain he would have had no problem to make his songs heard in the back of the large store. He played a short and very stripped-down set at Amoeba on Tuesday night, just accompanied by a piano, singing with a voice embodying strength, passion, ache, and vulnerability. The 27-year-old Irish singer-songwriter was promoting his debut album ‘Without Fear’ released a few weeks ago on Interscope, and looking at this packed store, I would tell he is on the rise to big success?
His voice was certainly the most remarkable feature of the set, expressing powerful emotions, whereas the melodies of the songs were following this same melancholic tone reinforced by the keys, letting Kennedy’s voice rest and then run fast to reach some loud powerhouse. It was practically an a-cappella effect at times, as his voice was often the only thing resonating in the store. People were very quietly listening to the songs and were cheering with passion at the end of them, especially the girls, who were charmed by Dermot’s smile hiding behind a cap he kept the entire time. It was especially true he started talking about his song ‘Power Over Me’… which, he explained, was about falling in love, but doing it a certain way: ‘it’s about not being afraid to fall in love, it’s about doing it without fear of being hurt, despite what could potentially go wrong’.
‘I wanted it to represent darkness and sorrow but also hope, and that battle between them, and the way that in life you’ll inevitably experience beautiful things and terrible things,’ he has said to describe this new album, and if these feelings were certainly present during his singing, there was a certain monotony in all this, and should I say a predictability in the songs? I don’t know if I would be able to distinguish any of them in the end.
One thing became certain, Dermot Kennedy wanted to be meaningful, he told us about this happy and beautiful feeling to see a song reaching a lot of people. You can tell he put his heart and soul in these songs, that he was singing with plenty of conviction, but, to me, they were just landing as somewhat trite love songs, no matter how many times he was repeating ‘And if only you could see yourself in my eyes/You’d see you shine, you shine/I know you’d never leave me behind/But I am lost this time’ or ‘You’ve got that power over me, my my/Everything I hold dear resides in those eyes’ …It apparently wasn’t the opinion of all these people around me.
‘Without Fear’ benefits from the production of Mike Dean, who has recorded with many major hip hop artists such as Kanye West, 2Pac, Travis Scott or Jay-Z, and you could certainly hear a certain hip hop influence in the urgency of the delivery during ‘Outnumbered’ for example, but it stayed very subtle and barely perceivable live… if Dermot sometimes sounded like a David Gray on steroids, his voice was definitively the attraction.
Dermot Kennedy has gained over 600 million streams and has about 7 million listeners monthly on Spotify alone while he is selling out tours all over Europe and the US. That’s huge and highly impressive, but at Amoeba, his robust voice was showing a wounded edge for the women’s greatest delight.
An Evening I Will Not Forget
Power Over Me