By Max Ryan
While the support act warmed up the audience, Cork man Jack O’Rourke floated through the crowd to greet the scores of family members and friends who had flocked to Whelan’s to support the Dublin launch of his debut album ‘Dreamcatcher’ on Thursday night.
O’Rourke began touring the album around the country last month, and it recently spent a week at number five in the Irish charts, such has been the acclaim for this eclectic body of work.
Laura Ann Brady and Sarah Gleeson’s ethereal performance, which included Brady’s recently released single ‘Masterpiece’, was the perfect aperitif, cleansing the audience’s palate and whetting its appetite for the main course.
I have been to see Jack live before and he seems to get better and better with every gig he plays. As does his band, drummer Davie Ryan, bassist Dave Duffy and guitarist Hugh Dillon. But first, it was Jack who took command of the keyboard and launched into a solo rendition of ‘Nostalgia’, a wistful, reminiscent ballad and the first track on the album.
The upstairs venue at Whelan’s is an intimate space with a capacity of just 120. The band, armed with their instruments, filled the space with a powerful sound and a lot of groove as Jack gave what struck me as being a very personal performance. He smiled at friends who caught his eye during songs and bantered with the audience during rare moments of quiet.
But the band downed their instruments again and turned their attention to their front man as he played the opening chords of his award-winning ballad ‘Silence’, a track which became the unofficial anthem of the YES Campaign for Marriage Equality in 2015. The autobiographical piece charts the struggles of growing up gay in Ireland and O’Rourke performed it with aplomb.
It was testament to the performance that many if not all of the crowd hung around after the last note was played to enjoy a pint or have their copies of the album signed by O’Rourke himself. If you have yet to see him live, keep an eye out for upcoming gigs because he is well worth the price of admission, and then some.