The rise of the ‘Down to Earth’ crooners, Capaldi, Grennan and now Dermot Kennedy selling 1000’s of seats at the Arena in Leeds

It has been a quiet rise of the ‘down to earth’ singer songwriters club, after Sheeran disappeared for a couple of years and then covid struck we seem to have been taken over by them. This year I have only been to the Arena in Leeds 3 times and each time it was a singer songwriter from the ‘down to earth’ club.

A band of men that ‘connect’ with their audience because literally 5 years or so ago, they were just that, probably watching Sheeran from a seat in the gods thinking, right – that’s gonna be me in a few years.

The other weird thing about this clan is they all like an ego ramp, one that juts out to the front so that they can be in the centre of things and to ‘connect’ even more. This is sounding like I don’t enjoy a singer-songwriter performance, which is wrong, I do, but I also like a bit of humour somewhere in this serious process, which is why Capaldi will always win. The audience here though are a mixture of students to thirty somethings, some have brought teddys offering peace and love, others have decided to have a bit of a scrap in the stalls, those two pinters of dark fruits just hitting the spot as the lights go down.

Kennedy walks out on to the ramp, I’m not quite sure how because there is little light for him or us to see him, just a silhouette as he croons through ‘Blossom’, one of eight tracks from the ‘Sonder’ album. ‘Without Fear’, his previous record, will get a huge chunk played too, and it is those tracks that get the lights and phone cameras up to record the event. ‘Lost’ being one of the first but you need some decent battery length to get that and help him out with some light for ‘Innocence & Sadness’ later on.

The pinnacle of ‘connectedness’ happens with ‘Rome’, where the stage becomes dark (again) and Kennedy is alone at the keyboard, he asks everyone to hold a memory in their head to make the track feel even more special. This is a key Kennedy trait – get the audience together with some personal stories, anecdotes etc. and then slay them with some great vocals, better in a live setting in my opinion than on his records. There is added depth here too with his ability to pick a guitar or sit at the piano and just play without backing tapes that so many seem to be doing these days. This is no karaoke performance with dancers, he can play, write and sing and has a band backing him too.

“Will you sing with me?” he keeps saying, even though from where I’m sitting we’ve been pretty vocal already, ‘Better Days’ and ‘Kiss Me’ are both received very well, but obviously the very best were left till last. ‘Outnumbered’ and ‘Something To Someone’ are practically screamed back at him and by then this 8,000 strong crowd are finally satisfied with another top notch inspiring and emotional performance from Dermot Kennedy.

Dermot Kennedy Setlist: Blossom, Power Over Me, One Life, An Evening I Will Not Forget, Lost, Young & Free, Dreamer, Moments Passed, Glory, Rome, Innocence and Sadness, After Rain, Without Fear, Better Days, Homeward, Kiss Me, Outnumbered, Something to Someone

Word and Photos by John Hayhurst 


Philip Goddard

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