Live Reviews Music

Dermot Kennedy Live at Cardiff Student Union, 15th October 2018

By Max Modell

My anticipation for Dermot Kennedy’s Cardiff date has been clear to see for months. The gig made the Local Music Watch section in our first print editions of Quench this year on my instance. I can’t say whether that article had an influence on attendance, but to my delight, Y Plas at Cardiff Student Union was sold out with a young and passionate crowd. The stage was set for a fantastic evening.

Dermot Kennedy is a unique proposition combining pristine, emotional indie folk music with dramatic, electronic production which would feel at home on hip-hop or R&B tracks. This is offset against Kennedy’s weathered screams of pure emotion. The extremes of the production are mirrored in the lyrics which poetically explore life’s extremes; love and heartbreak, joy and loneliness to celebrations of the people in life who guide you and make it worth living. It is clear Kennedy does nothing by half, and his live show reflects this.

Kennedy walked out on stage just after 9 o’clock to crashing symbols and bold piano chords as his band played him on. Everything then went up a level when Kennedy started to sing. The raw power of his voice on the records is matched, if not surpassed by his live performance. Despite the electronic effects scattered through the production they were smart enough to do very little to Kennedy’s vocal, his biggest draw, occasionally added a little reverb to his voice, but nothing more.

As the night rolled on my admiration for Kennedy kept increasing, after some initial problems with the mix in the first few songs they got it right, truly allowing Kennedy to shine, particularly later in the set as the scale kept increasing. Yet, throughout Kennedy’s performance, his conviction never faltered. It was as if he felt every emotional beat and the pain was sweating out of him, his vocals just scream of pain or passion.

Despite some minor gripes with the piano sound, which was rather artificial, and an overzealous light which insisted on blinding the audience by shining directly in our eyes during a few songs, it was impossible not to love every moment of Kennedy’s show. It surpassed every one of high expectations. Furthermore, Kennedy showed off a few new songs which have me on tenterhooks, impatiently waiting for him to release his debut album and provide even more material for me to sink my teeth into.