In his Los Angeles debut at Largo, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice didn't trot out the opera singer who pushes his remarkable 2002 debut album, "O," into over-the-top glory. The buzz surrounding the show -- fueled by support for the album, which won't be released in the U.S. until May, from KCRW-FM (89.9) -- and Rice's unfettered poetic romanticism gave the night near-operatic dynamic aplenty, albeit in a distinctively shambling sort of way.
Rice on Tuesday called to mind Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke plus a dash of Badly Drawn Boy, without really sounding like any of them (though he did pay homage to both Buckley and Radiohead in the set). Notably, this was achieved with the simplest of tools: an acoustic guitar augmented with effects pedals, a stunningly affecting voice (matched by fragile counterpoint from shy Lisa Hannigan, who popped in and out as a near-equal partner) and sweeping artistic sensibilities.
Such heart-on-sleeve epics as "Eskimo" (the one with the opera singer on the album) rarely took straight lines. Rather, they meandered around corners, ducked down alleys, moody at one turn, elated at the next, hushed and sketchy here, almost embarrassingly florid there, like an ongoing dialogue between lovers. Judging from this performance, it's a conversation that will be fascinating to follow wherever Rice takes it.
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.,
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Info: (310) 276-6168