DAMIEN RICE with ADRIENNE PIERCE at the Music Hall, July 17. Tickets: $33.50. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Those looking for a little respite from Monday's searing heat didn't get it at the sold-out Damien Rice show Monday. Barometers were bursting inside the historic Danforth Music Hall as fans of the Irish sensitivo songwriter fanned themselves with papers and programs, making the setting look like a Southern gospel church, complete with desperate prayers for a cool breeze.
After wiping my beaded brow, my vision cleared enough to see Vancouver-born singer Adrienne Pierce quietly take the candlelit stage and open with songs off her indie-produced album, Small Fires. Pierce cagily wooed the audience by declaring herself a huge Damien Rice fan, to a roar of approval from the hitherto subdued and seated crowd. Her Jewel-ish songs, dotted with the occasional feather-light guitar strum, were received politely, but you could feel the heated (deathly in this case) tension building for Rice in the predominantly femme-filled capacity crowd.
After surviving intermission in a hellfire of a lobby where bottled water seemed to have been priced by the devil himself, it was back to the inferno where Rice was abruptly arriving onstage. During this small detour from the Fiona Apple tour he's currently opening for, Rice was the stage's sole occupant. His set oscillated between pin-drop-quiet moments of heavy emotional melancholy and over-loud, distorted microphone wails accompanied by the demonic thrashings of his acoustic.
Although the crowd politely supported Rice through his roller-coaster set, you could tell by the eighth or ninth song that his silence and refusal to engage were wearing on the heat-frazzled nerves of his feverish adorers. Finally, a voice (male, no less) from the balcony blurted, "I want you, Damien," to which a blushing Rice playfully began rattling off a phone number.
This seemed to melt the ice. After graciously thanking everyone for "coming to share this sauna," he confirmed, "It's fucking warm in here" and broke into another sweaty number off his lone full-length, O. He closed with the mega-hit The Blower's Daughter, during which he repeatedly sang, "Can't take my eyes off of you" to a standing ovation of fans who were either burning with passion or just plain burning.